Independent research by cross-party think tank Demos shows that a new, rugby-based character education programme has had ‘statistically significant and positive impacts’ on the character development of school children.
Created and delivered by 14 Premiership Rugby clubs, the pilot scheme, called On the Front Foot, started in April 2015 and involved more than 17,500 children at primary and secondary schools in England in a six-week long course designed to boost character, confidence and social skills. The classes were run as part of the PHSE and PE curricula and after school.
Demos’ Head of Citizenship, Ralph Scott, said: “The evaluative evidence presented in this report shows that, on average, participants experienced a significant positive change in their character capabilities over the course of the programme. This was particularly the case for secondary participants, who reported positive change across every character measure that we assessed, although there were many positive outcomes for primary participants too. This leads us to conclude that it is possible for rugby-based education programmes to develop various character capabilities in participants – including those associated with performance, problem-solving, leadership and social skills – as assessed through self-reported psychometric measures.”
On the Front Foot was delivered in schools across the country by Premiership Rugby, which represents the top-flight professional rugby union clubs in England, after they won a grant from the Department of Education’s character education fund as part of the Government’s push to make England a ‘global leader’ in character education. The 14 Premiership Rugby clubs whose community coaches deliver On the Front Foot in their region are: Bath Rugby, Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester Rugby, Harlequins, Leicester Tigers, London Irish, Newcastle Falcons, Northampton Saints, Sale Sharks, Saracens, Wasps and Worcester Warriors. London Welsh and Bristol Rugby coaches also delivered in schools as part of the scheme.
Key findings from the 20 responses
- Secondary school participants reported that grit increased by seven per cent, self-efficacy by nine per cent, problem-solving by nine per cent and creativity by eight per cent
- Secondary school participants felt the programme had not only improved their character but also their performance at school, with 42% feeling significantly more focused, 46 per cent more confident, and 47% saying it had led to better marks at school
- Primary school participants reported increases in empathy of five per cent, leadership of four per cent increase in leadership, self-regulation of three per cent increase and a three per cent increase in self-efficacy
- Primary school respondents said the programme had a positive impact, would recommend it to others, and the sport participation benefited classroom work
Minister of State for Children and Families, Edward Timpson, said: “We are determined to spread educational excellence everywhere and promoting positive character traits is at its heart. One way of doing so is through rugby, which instils resilience and the ability to bounce back from defeat.
“That’s why last year we announced funding to send the best rugby clubs into schools to transform the lives of disaffected and disadvantaged children – and I am delighted to see the programme going from strength to strength.
“Sport can play a vital role in instilling character and to help this we recently announced that the primary PE and Sport Premium will double to £320m per year from September 2017. Schools can put this towards extending after school opportunities, buying new equipment and hiring specialist sports coaches to work alongside teachers.”
Wayne Morris, Director of Community and CSR at Premiership Rugby, said: “This evaluation proves that, if packaged and delivered expertly, professional rugby union’s values and the appeal of professional sportspeople and brands can help children improve vital characteristics, which have a positive impact on their success in the classroom, in their social lives and in the world of work. We are ready to share the learning’s from the pilot and scale up the programme further with the support of the Department of Education.”