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Breaking down barriers to help schoolchildren give rugby a try

Date published: 20 December 2023

Read time: 2 minutes

The Gosforth Central Middle School after-school rugby squad and their coach, Paul Edwards, in the middle.

A Newcastle Building Society colleague is helping to break down barriers and make playing rugby more accessible to schoolchildren in Newcastle. 

Paul Edwards, Head of Enterprise Risk, has been volunteering as a coach for Key Stage 3 children at Gosforth Central Middle School's after-school rugby club this autumn term. 

Due to the nature of the sport, a qualified coach is required for younger players so they can progress to full contact rugby.

In Gosforth, Newcastle, this has led to a divide in access to rugby as part of the school curriculum, between the local public and fee-paying private schools.

Paul was approached by a governor from the Middle School after they struggled to access a qualified coach.

Close up of a man and two boys. One of the boys is holding a rugby ball in his hands and the man is pointing his arm towards the right to show the boys where to throw the ball.

"As a qualified coach, who has been coaching at a club level for the past five years, I was really keen to break down the barriers to access rugby in schools and help more students experience it."

Paul Edwards

Volunteering as a rugby coach isn’t just about teaching a sport. For Paul, the benefits extend beyond the pitch, as he works to break down barriers to access rugby and foster personal development through teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline, and sportsmanship – the TREDS values of rugby.

A close up of a man talking to two schoolchildren he coaches rugby.

"Not only are they enjoying themselves, but they’re also experiencing another form of learning and development outside of the classroom. They are embracing the TREDS values of rugby, which also crosses over into their education and development and will help them become well-rounded individuals."

The positive impact Paul and rugby are having is clear in the students’ enthusiasm. Nearly 30 boys attend each week, eager to play and show off their skills, and the school are already exploring the possibility of adding sessions for girls as well.

A group of school boys stood in a field, dressed in their sports kits, listening to their rugby coach.

"This is an after-school club, so it’s great to see that we’re nearly at capacity each week. There’s a good blend of those who play rugby outside of school but can’t access it in school, and others who have never tried rugby before. They have an appetite to play, but just needed the access."

In a letter to the students’ parents, Mr Freize, School Business Manager, at Gosforth Central Middle School said: “Mr Edwards has been very complementary about the enthusiasm, commitment and behaviour of the pupils who attend these sessions.

“He is only able to deliver these sessions due to the support of his employer, Newcastle Building Society, who allow him time out of work each Thursday as part of their community volunteering programme.”

Not only has our relationship with the Middle School strengthened as a result of Paul’s volunteering, he has also led discussions on how we can support the school’s new Enterprise and Careers Curriculum.

Close up of a man in a field holding two rugby balls in his hands.

"I’ve been able to talk with the Lead for Enterprise and Careers as to how the Society can help, examples discussed have been an introduction to money and savings, CV writing and the power of teamwork."

Paul’s coaching is a great example of how our colleagues bring to life our Purpose of connecting our communities with a better financial future through their volunteering.

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