The power of sport

The charities of the Bristol Sport Group have been working tirelessly to help the young people of Greater Bristol thrive inside and outside of the classroom. After a tumultuous year, we find out how intrinsic their work has been for so many

Home to Bristol City FC, Bristol Bears Rugby and Bristol Flyers Basketball, Bristol Sport has three charitable foundations that continue to deliver truly amazing work in the communities of Greater Bristol, using sport as an engagement tool to improve the fortunes of young people. Here, we take a look at each foundation to find out more about their educational work in the community, with insight from the people behind the scenes.

Bristol Sport Foundation
BSF is on a mission to use the power of sport to create active, healthy, happy communities. Its work has been especially vital throughout the past year as Tom Monks, head of programmes, tells us: “In a year of uncertainty, we have provided some ‘normal’ for all of the children we work with, whether in school, for children of key workers and vulnerable children, or through our community clubs, hubs and holiday camps. The importance of physical activity during this period has only been elevated and the feedback we’ve received from participants and partners has highlighted how much they’ve appreciated our PE lessons and community delivery.”

But it’s not just all about sport, BSF has designed and delivered several impactful educational programmes including Reading Recovery. This collaborative project between BSF and its various corporate partners is helping primary school children aged between seven and 11 improve their literacy skills by giving them time to practice reading ‘one to one’ with a volunteer adult. Altogether, the programme has delivered 256 hours of voluntary reading time in five wards of Greater Bristol. Not only has Reading Recovery had a significant positive impact on the reading levels of the children, but also on their social skills and confidence. As one headteacher put it: “The time they have invested in the children has increased their confidence and enhanced their love of reading. I cannot speak highly enough of the programme, the people involved and the impact it has had on the children at my school.” BSF also delivers a comprehensive teacher mentoring programme which has significantly increased both the knowledge and confidence of the individual primary school PE teachers that it has supported, ensuring that children receive outstanding PE provision.

BSF’s Reading Recovery programme is helping children aged between seven and 11 improve their literacy skills by giving them time to practice reading one-to-one with a volunteer adult

Bristol City Robins Foundation
The Robins Foundation is the official charity of Bristol City Football Club, and its mission is to be a foundation right at the heart of its community. The education department has recently reached its 10th anniversary and offers exciting post-16 and higher education courses, with some being based at Ashton Gate Stadium and across different locations in Bristol.

Polly Wardle is the head of education at the foundation and oversees the eight different programmes on offer including BTEC Level 2 in Sport and BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport. She explains the impact that the programmes have on young people. “Students from across Bristol, but especially from South Bristol, enrol on our programmes,” she says. “We provide an education for students in an alternative, inspirational environment. Students come to our programmes and wear the BCFC kit, they represent the badge, they play football three times a week, they study in smaller classes and build relationships with like-minded peers.

“We consistently find that students who might not have engaged as well with their previous traditional educational environment come to us and thrive. As teachers we use the BCFC badge and the hook of football to engage them with their studies.”

Pupils studying with the foundation also have opportunities to engage outside of the classroom. “We pride ourselves on not just being an education provider but giving our students a holistic experience,” Polly adds. “We have a volunteering programme and offer students work experience on Bristol City home match days, on our community holiday camps, in schools with our delivery department or across other community events which the Robins Foundation delivers.”

They even go on national and international trips. “At times this is the first time some of our students have left Bristol or travelled by plane. Our aim is to expose our students to experiences and opportunities which develop them not just academically, but also socially and personally.”

The success of the programmes can be seen in the statistics – 56% of students who graduated from the post-16 provision are progressing onto higher education, which is in stark contrast to the South Bristol average of 16%. What’s more, as a testament to the fantastic work of the foundation, this summer 100% of post-16 students graduated, with 84% exceeding their target grades. “We couldn’t be prouder of these students and know they will progress to do fantastic things in their communities with the values and holistic provision that our staff have provided,” continues Polly. Looking to the future, the foundation has exciting plans to introduce a brand new BTEC Level 3 in Esports, which aims to provide an alternative provision for students within an industry experiencing rapid growth.

In the post-Covid world, the foundation continues to have a productive impact

Bristol Bears Community Foundation
It is a similar story with the award-winning Bristol Bears Community Foundation, which harnesses the power of the Bristol Bears brand to work with over 8,000 people from the local community each year, contributing to the club’s vision to ‘inspire the community through rugby success’.

Delivering a diverse range of programmes, the foundation serves the community across four key areas – education, participation, health, and inclusion – with its two flagship educational programmes Bright Sparks, an intervention aimed at secondary school children, and Premiership Rugby funded post-16 offering HITZ.

Transitioning all delivery online throughout the pandemic created a need for additional support from foundation colleagues in providing access to suitable devices, as well as training for young people to access online content. Working proactively with partner schools and education partners, the overwhelming majority of students were able to continue a level of virtual engagement that resulted in positive outcomes for all with reference to programme outcomes, positive mental health through well-planned enrichment activities, and not least, going some way in preventing anti-social behaviour.

In the post-Covid world, the foundation’s programmes continue to have a constructive impact on the community, thanks, in part, to its ability to foster meaningful relationships, as Craig Capel, community development manager, says: “All of our programmes rely on building positive relationships as the very foundation of delivery and ultimately success. Establishing these relationships alongside maintaining high expectations of all students allows staff to really respond to the needs of each young person. Add to these the engagements from other partners including Avon & Somerset Police, Avon Fire & Rescue and Bristol Bears Men & Women, as well as a number of brilliant corporate supporters, the influence on the behaviours of our students continues to be fundamental to the success of our education offer.”

The work of the foundation has manifested in some excellent results for this year’s cohort. With 90% of students achieving at least a level one qualification, 81% of students improved their attendance at their school or academy and 60% of post-16 students moved into employment or further training.

One success story from this year has seen four students moving into apprenticeships or employment with local company Molson as a direct result of their involvement in the HITZ programme. “It is clear that our programmes, with the support of excellent corporate partners, provide unique experiences and meaningful opportunities for young people to improve their skills, qualities and pathways to further training and/or employment,” concludes Craig.

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