Rugby players from Jersey Reds have taken part in reading sessions with pupils at Haute Vallée School to help build children's confidence and improve their reading skills. The weekly sessions are part of a joint initiative between Jersey Reds and Every Child Our Future, the local children’s educational charity.
Every Child Our Future (ECOF) began in September 2016 and now operates in 16 States primary schools. The charity has recruited more than 550 volunteers, who read weekly with 750 children in years 1 and 2 (aged between 5 and 7). The charity's annual report shows that children’s reading levels have increased by 75-100% as a result of the programme. ECOF also funds three reading recovery teachers, who focus on those children who need an intensive learning programme in order to catch up with their peers.
This pilot with Jersey Reds at Haute Vallée is the first time volunteers have gone into a secondary school on the Island. The charity provided the players with training and, since the start of October, three players per week have been going into the school in St Helier for an hour each Wednesday to read with children in year 7 (aged 11 or 12).
Cliff Chipperfield, President of Jersey Reds and a Director of Every Child Our Future, described how the initiative had been conceived.
“Every Child Our Future normally focuses all of its resources and volunteers on key stage 1 in primary schools, but last summer the headteacher of Haute Vallée approached the charity and asked for volunteer support for their year 7 students," he said.
"At this point my connection with Jersey Reds provided a solution. We decided that professional players from the rugby club would be a good source of volunteers for the charity’s first piece of work with a secondary school.
"I am pleased to report that this pilot scheme is going really well - the children, school and players are enjoying a positive experience that definitely makes a difference.”
Sarah Smith, Assistant Headteacher Inclusion at Haute Vallée, said: "The rugby reading scheme has been outstanding and the players have shown great commitment and enthusiasm for the programme, volunteering their time to help children read. They are inspirational role models to the students and those fortunate enough to have benefited from the programme have all reported an increase in the amount they now enjoy reading.
"My hope is for more children to have this opportunity over the rest of the year and I'd like to thank Jersey Reds and Every Child Our Future for their contributions."
Mark Best, one of the Reds' players involved, said that his team-mates had found the sessions very worthwhile.
“It's been really enjoyable getting to see the kids improve their reading, and also getting more confident around all of the boys each week,” he said.
/*pics by Charlotte Huish*/
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