School pupils to take part in sports and educational workshops at Oxford in community initiative
Thursday 19th Oct 2023, 12.28pm
Thirty local school pupils will spend one day a week at Oxford University, trying a range of different sports followed by an afternoon of educational workshops, as part of a new community initiative that got underway today (Thursday 19 October).
The University of Oxford has launched the Oxford Sport Leaders Programme to explore ways in which sport, education and career development can combine to create opportunities for young people in the city.
The pilot project is being run by the Oxford SDG Impact Lab, which has been working in collaboration with Greyfriars School to create the six-week programme that draws on the best of Oxford’s resources.
I would love to see this pilot programme expanded in future years to bring more schools in and to offer this incredible opportunity to more local children
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey
Objectives include educational inspiration, learning new skills, physical activity, and the development of future career interests to hopefully provide a transformational experience for the group of Year 8 students.
During the mornings, students will try sports such as rowing at Falcon Boat Club, American football with the NFL Foundation at University Parks, athletics on the Bannister running track and remote-control car building and racing in Said Business School.
The school pupils will then have lunch at a University venue before spending the afternoon in a series of interactive educational workshops.
These afternoon sessions will include ‘Football on the Brain’ at the integrative neuroimaging unit with Professor Heidi Johnsen-Berg, ‘Sport Psychology’ with Saracens Rugby Club team psychologist Calum Clark, and ‘Ritual, Community Building and Identity in Sport’ with cognitive anthropologist and BBC commentator Dr Martha Newson.
Professor Irene Tracey, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: ‘The Oxford Sport Leaders Programme is the embodiment of many of my key priorities, combining the transformative benefits of sport and educational opportunities at Oxford with welcoming the local community into Oxford University spaces and inspiring school children in creative ways. I would love to see this pilot programme expanded in future years to bring more schools in and to offer this incredible opportunity to more local children.’
Part of their journey
The programme is being coordinated at Oxford by Oliver Cook, who is a former Olympian, Oxford student and is currently a programme manager with the Oxford SDG Impact Lab.
Ten current Oxford students drawn from across the University, including engineers, medics, humanities students and social scientists, have also been recruited to lead the engagement.
Oliver said: ‘We’ve been in conversation with Greyfriars School now for over six months in the development of this programme.
The Oxford students will also take part in the activities, have lunch with the school pupils, and be very much part of their journey.
Programme coordinator, Oliver Cook
‘The Oxford students have been inputting into the development of the programme as well and will be leading each day with the students from Greyfriars, welcoming them to the University and getting to know them, with the ambition to deepen the connection between the University and Greyfriars School.
‘The Oxford students will also take part in the activities, have lunch with the school pupils, and be very much part of their journey.
‘The big objective of the programme is to successfully run this pilot, to understand what worked well and what can be improved, and to launch a second programme with one or more other schools in central Oxford in 2024, impacting more students from the community in Oxford.’
Bringing people together
Oliver said the experience of seeing an array of academics, societies, and students coming together to really demonstrate the kind of place Oxford is has been incredible: ‘Sport has given me so much. It was a big part of my time while I was studying at Oxford, and I was so fortunate to turn my sport into a career. I believe sport can be a great platform for bringing people together and I think this programme will be a wonderful example of this.’
Professor Alexander Betts, the University’s Local and Global Engagement Officer, and Co-Director of the Lab, added: ‘Sport offers a great way for us to connect with school children, and inspire their interest in education. By making the University accessible and fun for young people across the city, we hope we can ignite a spark of curiosity about higher education.
‘The initiative is also fantastic for our students, offering them the opportunity to lead a local engagement project, working in interdisciplinary teams on the design, delivery, and evaluation of the programme. We’re really privileged to have one of our Olympic athletes, Oliver Cook, serve as such a great ambassador for the programme.’
The Oxford SDG Impact Lab was set up in 2021 and is based in the Oxford Department of International Development. It aims to support students to collaborate with external partners to deliver the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), locally, nationally, and globally.
The Oxford Sport Leaders Programme is being supported by funding from the University of Oxford’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account award (Grant Ref: ES/X004511/1).