Bath Rugby Foundation

Not all children thrive in school, and part of the work of the Bath Rugby Foundation is designed to create a learning environment for young people at risk of not being in education, employment or training. The Foundation tells us more

When was the Bath Rugby Foundation set up?

Bath Rugby Foundation was first founded in 2003 (the year that England won the World Cup!) Our main aim and objective at Bath Rugby Foundation is to change the lives of young people for the better. We understand that not everyone has an equal start in life and not everyone gets to follow the same path. We want to change this, we aim to equip young people with the skills needed to change the social norms by working with them to build confidence, develop life skills and build a path to independence.

The foundation has multiple sources of funding, including partnerships with organisations such as Premiership Rugby as well as grants and donations which are generated and handled by our fundraising team. The Foundation helps around 3000 youngsters each year.

How do you choose which children to help?

We recruit students to join our HITZ learning academy via several sources, including our own in-house outreach effort, which includes school visits with our programmes such as ‘Raising the Game’, ‘Project Rugby’ or ‘HITZ on Track’, as well as through multi-agency referrals from local colleges, supported housing units or youth offending teams.

With the work we do in and out of schools, we can promote multiple programmes for young people with varying needs and ages. Some of our programmes are aimed at certain age groups due to the nature of the provision, however we are also able to offer access to grassroot sports opportunities including Walcot Warriors and Bath Ladies Mixed ability rugby team where participants of all abilities can join in!

How does the HITZ programme work?

HITZ is a programme that collaborates both Premiership Rugby and SCL education to create a learning environment for 16–24-year-olds who are at risk of becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). We work with young adults who have struggled at school due to exclusion from schools or have been unsuccessful at obtaining GCSE qualifications, HITZ runs throughout the country in connection with a handful of premiership teams.

We have observed that negative experiences at school can have an impact on their ability to find employment, meaning they are often left out of education or work. HITZ works collaboratively with SCL education to support 16–24-year-olds to gain a qualification in either Employability or BTEC sports, and the chance to re-sit their GCSE’s. The programme prides itself on creating a supportive and empowering environment for young people to develop the skills they need to re-enter into today’s society with confidence in themselves and their abilities.

Why is rugby such a powerful tool in attracting and giving new chances to these vulnerable youngsters?

Rugby is inclusive of all ages and abilities; the foundation works with vast numbers of young people from primary school age to adults. With the ability to offer this provision for such a wide group of ages, we see great success in participation. Rugby allows the young people to challenge their energy into sports in a safe and engaging way.

In 2017, the Foundation founded the first mixed ability rugby team, (Walcot Warriors) in the south west which welcomes participants with varying needs and abilities the opportunity to be part of a team. The team was created following great interest in the Project Rugby programme, which seeks to introduce players from hard-to-reach areas of our society to the sport and local clubs. Off the back of Walcot Warriors, England’s first female mixed ability rugby team Bath Ladies Team was created.

BRF work with different kinds of groups – is this an effective way of maximising the impact of your work

Collaboration is key in producing unthinkable results. We can achieve more by bringing together different ways of thinking. Drawing on more expertise than one organisation can hold on its own. We value the chance for collaborations with schools, charities, and youth community groups because it allows us to extend our reach to those who need us, avoiding any of them slipping through the net and missing out on the provision they deserve.

Do you offer access to sports other than rugby?

Although rugby is at the heart of what we do, it’s not all we do! Many of our programmes focus on rugby and the core rugby values, however, we see great values in getting involved in other sports too. This year during the HITZ programme we have participated in other sports such as golf, yoga, dancing and boccia, to mention a few!

Many of the youngsters you support don’t have a good relationship with schools and learning environments.

How do you help them?

Sadly, this is very common for or learners on the HITZ programme, we find that most of our referrals come following college dropout or not being successful in obtaining GSCE’s, which can lead to little or no aspirations for the future to continue into employment or training.

At HITZ we not only offer academic courses in both Sports and Employability, which are both taught through practical sessions within the classrooms, but also enrichment sessions. These provide young people with opportunities to experience different sports and gain life skills such as confidence building and participate in work experience to get an understanding of different vocations they can progress into.

We find that there is a wonderful relationship between learners and the team which allows the young people to feel safe enough to let us support them. They can see that the team care and are there to help them grow on their individual journeys. There is great value in participation in sports and we enjoy teaching lessons through sports, and we can use our wonderful facilities to create environments for learning about ourselves and our capabilities.

Our learners often refer to HITZ as a family which we believe truly highlights what our provision is to them and what it means for them to be a part of this programme.

How much is the fact that some children feel ostracised and don’t fit in at school a fault of the education system?

We believe we want the same things as teachers and schools – success for our young people. What we see is many young people who aren’t catered for by the education system. They need something different. Something schools want to offer but don’t have the resources or time to achieve. That’s why we work so closely with our schools to help them create that offering.

As for poverty there are plenty of studies to show that those from financially stable background will most likely achieve more than their disadvantaged peers. What’s more we know that it is strongly linked to their resilience. That’s why we specialise in this area.

That’s not all. The world has changed so quickly in the last 10 years with the emergence of technology and social media that there are a host of new pressures on the younger generations. Helping them build a stronger sense of identity in a world flooded with imagery of the perfect world allows them to confidently navigate through life.

Case study: Ryan Mason

Ryan joined the HITZ programme 12 months ago following his exclusion from college. He had been disengaged with education the past few years, plagued with consistent behavioural and drug-related issues. When he was excluded, Ryan lost the apprenticeship plan that was part of the course.

His first year at HITZ did not go well as his relationship with education had impacted on his outlook. He said: “I didn’t get on with teachers and I got distracted far too easily. I didn’t like school and that’s what I thought this was going to be like.” Ryan failed his first year as he decided just a few days before the course ended that he would prefer to leave and find a job. He ended up unemployed and out of education.

“After a month I realised I needed to do something,” says Ryan. “I had started going out and getting into trouble, messing around and getting into fights.” However, Bath Rugby Foundation staff had seen Ryan’s potential and refused to give up: “They rang me up and said ‘come back, we can help you’.”

Ryan returned with a different outlook and is now an official HITZ Captain – he is positive, motivating, friendly, caring and hardworking, supporting other students on a daily basis and leading by example.

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