Developing school rowing in Warrington

Over a hundred schoolchildren are learning to row thanks to an innovative scheme at Warrington Youth Rowing

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Learning to row at Warrington

Once a week in Warrington, juniors from eight local state schools leave the classroom behind and have a two hour session on the water instead. But until 2016 none of these schools ever had rowing on their curriculum at all.

Rewind to June 2016 when Ben Dunne, Principal at Penketh High School and Richard Sinnott of Warrington RC hatched a plan to offer rowing to children who might not otherwise have the chance to try the sport.

Their ambitions neatly coincided with initiatives that were being devised by British Rowing and the Stewards’ Charitable Trust (SCT). These ideas fermented into reality and in September 2016, Phil Lyons began his two-year term as a SCT coach based at Warrington RC.

A year later the scheme expanded to include year 9 and 10 students with Sinnott joining on a full-time basis as chairman of Warrington Youth Rowing (WYR). WYR has now been registered as a charity, actively seeking further funding.

One of the schools said the scheme is improving pupils’ attendance, academic attainment and behaviour

So how does it work? The schools deliver their pupils to WRC for a two hour slot with a staff member staying on site. These slots are during the school day and an obvious attraction for the pupils: the choice is two hours’ rowing or two hours of studying! WRC benefits from a fee for each pupil and the activity happens outside of normal club hours so it’s a win-win situation.

“We get some really heart-warming responses and we’ve had some amazing feedback,” said Sinnott.

“One kid’s mum said she couldn’t believe how much his confidence had grown since he started rowing.

“At the wash-up meeting last year, one of the schools said the scheme is improving pupils’ attendance, academic attainment and behaviour.”

I love rowing now. It has given me confidence and helped me get fit

Pupils from the eight schools are enjoying their opportunity to learn to row and some are taking it further.

After holding an indoor rowing regatta at Warrington RC, in March the eight best juniors made the journey south to the Lee Valley Athletics Centre in London to compete at NJRIC, the biggest junior indoor rowing event in the country.

Sinnott said, “Some of the kids had never been on a train or to London so it was quite a thing. Pupils from four different schools went down and they were virtually strangers at the start, but they all bonded, and were the best of mates on the way back.”

Incredibly one junior – Elle – won a bronze medal in the Year 9 girls’ race, coming third out of 214 competitors.

She said, “This opportunity has given me the chance to do a sport I never thought I’d do and compete in London. I love rowing now. It has given me confidence and helped me get fit.

“Thank you to WYR for giving me a chance and taking the time to teach me.”

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