In the Jersey Children and Young People Health and Wellbeing Survey (2021), it was found that Haute Vallée secondary school had the least number of students meeting the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. In fact, just 12% of their 500+ students met this criteria.
The school’s Head Teacher and Board of Governors realised that something needed to change and asked Jersey Sport for guidance and support.
Elliott Powell, Children and Schools Manager at Jersey Sport, got involved and invited Haute Vallée to bid for financial support for a sport and physical activity initiative through the Roar into Sport fund. This fund was created by Jersey Sport who raised £103,000 through a Charity Gala Dinner in 2021 – ‘An audience with the British & Irish Lions’ – to enable more young people in Jersey to access sport at all levels.
Haute Vallée School were granted £80,000 for their project which involved, in part, employing Pete Rutherford as the Active Schools Co-ordinator and Mick McCue as the Active Schools Mentor.
Pete explained, “There were no guidelines or a blueprint to get started. All we knew was that we wanted to get more students enthusiastic about taking part in sport and physical activity and to make a significant change to the statistics moving forward.”
To encourage buy-in from students, Pete started with a digital questionnaire that was sent out to all 540 children. The teachers, senior leadership team and head teacher were all on board, but the success of the project was ultimately tied to the students, so finding out their opinions, ideas and goals was the crucial starting point.
Questions included current participation in sports and physical activities inside and outside of school, memberships to sports organisations and the option to add suggestions for sports they’d like to try.
Surprised and delighted to receive 390 responses, Pete and the Jersey Sport Team used that information to create a new selection of extra-curricular activities that would be offered in addition to regular school sports and PE sessions.
Building a strong relationship with the school and the PE department was an essential part of the project, along with collaborations with outside agencies to bring in qualified instructors. Haute Vallée School already had a climbing wall installed, but without qualified instructors, it wasn’t being used. This was one of the first activities brought to the school that has proved very popular with students alongside skateboarding – in conjunction with the Jersey Youth Service – and badminton.
Pete continues, “Over the first two terms it’s been amazing to see more and more students becoming active in after-school or lunchtime activities. At the end of May 2023, between us and the PE department, we’ve offered 19 different sports or activities. We recently took skateboarding students to the new skatepark at Les Quennevais. It’s amazing that in a small island so many of them had never been before, so it was great to be able to offer them that opportunity.”
At the start of Jersey Sport’s partnership with Haute Vallée School in autumn 2022, just 18% of students took part in extra-curricular sports or physical activity (244 students). By the end of the next reporting period, this had increased to 292. Then 317, and in May 2023, that figure had risen to 332 out of 546 students (61%).
Taking part in so many new activities has led to a dramatic increase in enthusiasm for sport, with 14 students taking part in the Jersey Junior Triathlon on 10 June, and 12 students competing in the Badminton School Festival. They were incredibly proud to be able to push themselves out of their comfort zone and took great pride in representing their school.
In addition to facilitating this huge increase in students taking part in sport and physical activity, Pete and his colleagues have also collaborated with the inclusion team to support children who have become disengaged with learning and struggle with motivation and self-confidence. For those who could not join in with their peers in regular sessions for whatever reasons, Jersey Sport offered one-to-one sessions, or activities in small groups of up to four students, using the health and fitness studio.
Before starting these activities, students were asked to complete a questionnaire, rating themselves honestly in areas such as self-confidence, self-esteem and motivation to learn. Students re-took the questionnaire in March and the results were outstanding: There was a 51% increase in self-confidence, 30% increase in motivation to learn and 38% increase in self-esteem. This huge difference in personal motivation and self-confidence has led to many students re-joining their peers in regular PE lessons – which is the ultimate aim of inclusion.
Ten students have been taking a Young Leader Award course which teaches organisational skills, leadership and self-confidence, and will complete the course over the summer term. Some of the inclusion students now attend after school or lunchtime activities and a small number represent their school in a specific sport. This is a brilliant achievement and something the whole school and the individuals should be incredibly proud of.
The Jersey Sport – Haute Vallée collaboration has funding to continue to the end of December 2023, and both parties hope to be able to secure ongoing funding or sponsorship in order to carry on this amazing work.
Pete adds: “Haute Vallée’s Head Teacher, Stuart Hughes, is so passionate about the initiative and really wants the best for his students. The whole Senior Leadership Team and all the school’s teaching staff have been incredible and we’d love to be able to continue with this partnership.”
“Investing in children should be a no-brainer as they really are the future of our island. Building solid foundations in health and physical activity during these formative years shapes the long-term mental health and physical wellbeing we carry into adult life.”
Looking to the future, Pete shares Jersey Sport’s vision for the next stage of this project: “Our goal is to expand into other secondary schools and have an Activity Mentor in each one. If we could get into two additional schools, we would be supporting over 2500 students to be more active, more often, and create a real difference to their health and wellbeing, educational engagement, self-confidence and self-esteem.”
Feedback from students who have taken part in this year’s pilot scheme highlights the success of the project and the incredible impact it’s had on all areas of their lives:
“The sessions make me feel good. I like doing different sports with Mick and being able to calm down. I can also concentrate better.”
“I think that the boxing sessions at school are really helpful for getting fit and healthy and makes me feel less stressed when I’m doing boxing.”
“I enjoy the sessions because they have helped to develop my confidence along with helping me to communicate with other people.”
“I like them because they give me opportunities to get rid of my anger.”
“I like these sessions because they always calm me down before lesson and I enjoy time with Mick.”
“I really enjoy my fitness suite sessions because I find that they help me to concentrate in class and through the day.”
“I like doing the boxing sessions because it relieves stress and it’s something that I enjoy doing. I reckon it’s a good sport to get into for young people like me.”
For details about sports and physical activity opportunities for children and young people in Jersey, please visit our Jersey Sport Sports Directory or take a look at the current Children’s Activities we are offering.