The London Youth Games, now in its 43rd year, has seen well over 1.5 million school children compete across a range of sports since it was established back in 1977. Each year, schools compete on a local level for the chance to represent their borough at the London Youth Games Finals, where a comprehensive events programme covers over 30 different sports and 90 different disciplines throughout the spring & summer term.
This year, the girl’s rugby finals took place at Barn Elm’s sports club in Wandsworth where teams from across London had qualified for the opportunity to represent London at the National School Games Finals later in the year.
By age 14, just 10% of girls are doing enough physical activity. We know that the physical activity gender gap begins at primary school and widens further at secondary school. As such, The Harlequins Foundation actively champions girl’s rugby and together with Harlequins Women seeks to provide accessible and engaging participation opportunities through the provision of programmes such as Project Rugby and SWITCH.
This year, we have supported schools from Hounslow, Richmond and Kingston as they successfully qualified to represent their boroughs at this season’s LYG finals at Barn Elm’s. Since The Harlequins Foundation introduced rugby to the curriculum just a few months ago, Brentford School for Girls PE teacher Miss Joanne Lecocq commented:
“Having The Harlequins Foundation come to the school was amazing. James really engaged the girls and they loved the experience of playing rugby, something that most of them had never tried before. Watching the students get themselves fully involved gave us as P.E. teachers something to be immensely proud of. Seeing some of the more quiet and shy students really thrive at a sport they ordinarily wouldn’t think about trying was amazing to see and experience.”
They were joined at the finals by fellow Hounslow school, Kingsley Academy, now in their second year working together with The Harlequins Foundation to embed rugby as a core sport for pupils. Having made their debut at the London Youth Games last season and being Hounslow’s first school to enter a girl’s rugby team into the finals, the same team had again qualified to represent the borough in the Under 15 competition. James Collins-Clark, Foundation Development Officer for Hounslow commented:
“I have a real drive about making sure everyone is given equal opportunities to take part in sport, getting to introduce young people to a brand-new sport is very rewarding.
“Each week I hear from schools that their pupils are really enjoying their rugby sessions and that is obvious by the growing numbers wanting to join after-school clubs too!
“I am massively proud of both schools for representing Hounslow, to have two schools at the finals involved at two age groups really shows that Rugby in Hounslow is going from strength to strength!”
The Harlequins Foundation have worked closely with several schools in Richmond-upon-Thames for several years now. Waldegrave School are no strangers to the London Youth Games and it was pleasing to see plenty of participants from our SWITCH sessions selected to represent the school when they attended the competition earlier this month. Kirsty Openshaw, Foundation Development Officer for Richmond added:
“Waldegrave are really leading the way when it comes to providing their girls with a chance to play Rugby.
“They’ve welcomed our participation programmes with open arms, it is great to see so many of the girls taking part with a smile on their face and enjoying learning a brand-new sport.”
This season, we’ve also been working more closely with schools in Kingston-upon-Thames to support school staff and their pupils to embed rugby as a core sport for their pupils. Anna Caplice, Ireland and Harlequins Women’s back rower, joined The Harlequins Foundation this season as Foundation Development Officer for Kingston and has enjoyed combining her life as an elite athlete with the hands-on delivery of our participation programmes like SWITCH and Project Rugby. Chessington School, also in their first year working together with the Foundation to introduce Rugby to their curriculum, successfully qualified for the LYG finals. Anna Caplice commented:
“I’m so proud of the girls at Chessington and their teachers for their achievements in rugby, not only because they represented Kingston at the LYG and for coming in second place, but for fully embracing the sport with energy and optimism.
“For many of the girls it was a completely new sport and their fearlessness to compete in such a big competition is something their whole school will be very proud of.
“Their success will hopefully inspire more girls to take up rugby at Chessington as the game continues to grow impressively within the school and community.”
Foundation Inclusion Manager, Matthew Williams added:
“It is fantastic to see some of the impacts that our programmes are having in schools locally.
“Our team are incredibly passionate about sport and introducing hundreds of young people to rugby each year is amazing.
“Congratulations to all of the schools and boroughs represented at the London Youth Games girl’s rugby finals, and too all of the schools that have worked with us to encourage more and more young girls to take up such a fantastic sport.