Stars warn of meningitis risk on Manchester schools visit

Students from MSHG and MGS learned that young people are among the most at-risk of contracting meningitis

Former England rugby player and BBC sports commentator, Matt Dawson, and GB Olympic gold medal hockey captain, Kate Richardson-Walsh, were in Manchester to raise awareness of the devastating illness as part of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)’s Tackle Meningitis Campaign. 

A recent GSK survey revealed that, in the North West, understanding of the risk of meningitis among teens remains worryingly low; just one in ten parents and young people aged 14-18 are aware that teenagers are among the most at-risk for contracting the disease. The survey also highlighted a lack of knowledge about the signs and symptoms of the illness. 

During their visit to Manchester High School for Girls (MSHG) and The Manchester Grammar School (MGS), Matt and Kate met a group of aspiring hockey and rugby players from both schools, to give them tips and advice on how to get on in the world of professional sport. 

Director of Sport at MSHG, Mrs Sarah Newman, commented: “We were delighted to welcome Matt and Kate to talk to our students and staff about this important issue. 

Some of our girls already play hockey at a high level, and some continue the sport at university with the aim to play professionally. Keeping fit and healthy is, therefore, very important to them. Meeting Matt and Kate was a once in a lifetime opportunity for our players to meet their heroes and talk to them about their aspirations.” 

MSHG student, 15-year-old Lottie Kielty from Cheadle Hulme, has recently been selected for England Under-16s Hockey team. She said: “I watched Kate lead the England team to victory at the Rio Olympics, she is such an inspiration to me. It was a real honour to meet her and talk to her about our shared passion for hockey. In the future I hope to be able to play at Kate’s level and achieve great things in the sport.” 

MSHG students, Livia Baker from Didsbury and Ella Hampson from Lymm are both playing in the UK Lions Hockey team. At 13, both have a bright future ahead of them in the sport. Livia said: “It was great to be selected to the national team in the autumn, but meeting Matt and Kate today was icing on the cake! 

Our year group was vaccinated for meningitis earlier this week and, since Matt and Kate’s talk, I appreciate the need for the vaccination much more now that I am aware of the dangers the disease can pose. I would definitely recommend young people look up meningitis and learn about the symptoms.” 

‘A recent GSK survey revealed that, in the North West, understanding of the risk of meningitis among teens remains worryingly low.’

MGS pupil Finn Perls, 12, of Didsbury, said: “I’m a huge rugby fan so it was an amazing experience to meet Matt. He’s an inspiration to myself and other boys who play rugby, so I’ll never forget not only meeting him, but I’ll also never forget hearing him talk about how to spot the signs of meningitis, which means hopefully I will be able to help someone should they contract it.” 

Mark Walmsley, Director of Sport at MGS, said: “We were honoured to welcome Matt Dawson and Kate Richardson-Walsh to help raise awareness of meningitis and the risks the diseases poses to young people. 

Sadly, we have all seen tragic cases where young people have died after contracting this deadly disease, so today was a great opportunity for our boys to learn more about how to recognise the signs and symptoms of the illness and what they can do to tackle it.”