Check out the three Project of the Year Finalists for this year's Sky Sports Living for Sport Awards.
Parrs Wood High School, Manchester
Teacher: Stacey Copeland
Parrs Wood chose to use boxing, a sport not usually offered in schools and one that female students in particular may never have considered before, to give students a sense of discipline and an understanding of the shared respect between those who compete in combat sports. Students who had previously displayed challenging behaviour learned the value of discipline in sport; those who had been short on self-esteem grew in confidence and felt more valued as their achievements were celebrated by the school.
The two groups were chosen by learning support assistant Stacey Copeland, before Sky Sports Living for Sport Athlete Mentor Rachel Brown Finnis, the England and Team GB women's football star, played her part by visiting the group and helping to inspire students.
As part of the project, which included advice on healthy eating, goal-setting and personal branding, the group visited a local boxing gym and a boxing academy linked to a college - and learned how it is possible to combine sport with study in further education. This was something many of the students had not even considered before.
The project is now in its third year with more than 40 students having passed at least the first level of the GB national boxing awards.
Rastrick High School, Brighouse, West Yorkshire
Project: Aussie Rules Football
Teacher: Dean Watson
A group of 16 students with a passion for sport but who were underachieving in English and demonstrating poor attendance, behaviour or social skills were chosen for a project that lasted one-and-a-half terms.
Teacher Dean Watson, aided by Sky Sports Living for Sport Athlete Mentors Paul Broadbent, a former England rugby league star, and Rachael MacKenzie, the 2006 Thai Boxing champion, led the project - which featured a sport most pupils had never played or considered before. This provided a level playing field for the students, who had to learn the rules and life skills together.
The project achieved some remarkable results, including:
- 81 per cent of students improved their behaviour across school over the course of the project.
- 88 per cent of students improved their attendance.
- Almost 90 per cent of students made progress in English over the course of the project
Participating students also displayed a big improvement in their social and life skills, with staff reporting they were more confident in themselves and more willing to accept new challenges. This was demonstrated when the group visited local Primary Schools to deliver Aussie Rules taster sessions to younger children.
Thomas Deacon Academy, Peterborough
Project: Increasing female participation in sport through cricket
Teacher: Sian Williams
PE teacher Sian Williams, identified that over half the students, and particularly females and those from an Asian background, did not take part in an extra-curricular activity. This was down to a variety of reasons, from concerns over modesty to lack of role models; but the launch of a new lunchtime indoor cricket club for girls- run by a female coach - has had a positive impact.
Keen cricketer Komal Hussain, who had already played county cricket for Northants, was used as a role model to promote the club to younger pupils and with the help of Athlete Mentors Fran Williamson (four-times Para World Championship gold medallist swimmer) and Mike Mullen (former BMX world champion) the club soon thrived and was able to attract students who had never considered sport before.
The students were inspired by Fran's story of her Paralympic journey, her injuries and how she still had the drive to compete - never allowing her disability affect her ambitions.
She soon helped the group develop a determination to achieve their own goals in life - and the results were impressive.
The girls began to show signs of improved confidence and self-esteem, and many took an interest in other sports, becoming regulars in the school squads for netball, hockey and rounders. The school entered a Lady Taverners indoor County tournament and won their first ever game; and this year the girls entered the same competition and finished runners up.
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To find out more about Sky Sports Living for Sport - a free secondary schools initiative that uses sport stars and sport skills to boost confidence, change behaviours, increase attainment and improve life skills - click here.