Our organisation started life as a publicly funded body aiming to move over 90 schools towards achieving a Government Public Service Agreement of all children achieving 2 hours or more of physical activity per week. At only 27%, Tower Hamlets had the lowest proportion of children hitting that threshold in the whole of the UK in 2005 but by the time the measure was reviewed and adapted to a 5 hour target in 2009, we had increased it to 93%.
Over the same period we increased inter-school competitions from 3 per year to over 70 and we drove up the diversity of sports experienced by children in Tower Hamlets schools to over 24 - the highest average range of any UK borough.
The SSP programme changed the Physical Education landscape so much by the early 2010s, that we were appointed to a more significant role in community sport and physical activity. In Tower Hamlets, the UK’s 2nd most densely populated borough with by far the highest levels of child poverty (52%), fewest sports clubs and a number of cultural issues which were creating barriers to participation, approaching this required a great deal of innovation and investment. Our comprehensive approach to plugging the gaps in the borough's sporting infrastructure through creating Community Sports Coach roles and new initiatives was the foundation for an annual transition of over 12,000 children into community sports participation - a remarkable achievement that was in turn the basis for Tower Hamlets becoming one of the top 10 sporting boroughs in London for the first time.
In 2012, the coalition Government inexplicably withdrew funding for the School Sport Partnership programme nationally.
This caused outrage among our participants and their families to the extent that over 200 young people from Tower Hamlets led a national campaign demanding the Government reinstate funding for the programme. While this ultimately did not happen, it did lead to the creation of the School Games Organiser scheme and the Primary Sports Premium which still benefits Primary Schools across England today.
Locally, the popularity of our programmes and magnitude of our impact convinced local stakeholders to support the transition of Tower Hamlets SSP into the Tower Hamlets Youth Sport Foundation - a charity with a very similar set of objectives.
Another significant barrier to sports participation in Tower Hamlets was the lowest level of voluntary coaches and leaders anywhere in the UK – fewer than 3% of adults were volunteering time to support sport.
We created the “Stepping Stones Programme” which identified talented and enthusiastic sports leaders from across Tower Hamlets schools, brought them together as a group to run projects and, as they passed the age of 16, put them through various generic, sport-specific and officiating qualifications. They were also deployed into coaching and leadership work at local Primary Schools and during the school holidays, ran multi-sport programmes on estate ball-courts.
Over 80 young people per year were graduating through the Stepping Stones programme annually and the scheme won national awards. It was linked directly into the Games Maker programme in the lead up to the 2012 Olympic Games, for
which Tower Hamlets was a host borough. A number of the graduates of this scheme were involved in Olympic Legacy planning, and the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games.
During this period we also hosted students, teachers and Government officials from Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Cyprus, Holland, Pakistan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Rwanda, Spain, Turkey and Zambia, who were keen to investigate our approaches to tackling participation and using sport to address social issues.
In 2005 there were no opportunities for children in Tower Hamlets to take up cricket, despite some enthusiasm and a great deal of natural talent and flair. To address this we created the Tower Hamlets District Cricket programme and appointed a Full Time Cricket Development Officer. This led to a programme of training, matches, club links and coach education which in-turn realised the following achievements:
· Over 100 children playing recreational cricket annually
· London Youth Games Cricket Winners in 2009
· National Ford U14 Inner Cities Cup Winners in 2010
· 24 children from Tower Hamlets making youth county squads
· One player achieving an MCC Young Cricketer contract
Due to significant changes in personnel and circumstances at both Tower Hamlets Council and the school that had hosted our organisation since 2004, our leading role in Tower Hamlets school and youth sport was wound-down in 2018.
The Foundation resolved to look at other ways to address its objectives and utilise the expertise of its people, and in the Autumn of 2018 embarked on a trial project in two Inner London boroughs (Greenwich and Lewisham). Called PLATFORM CRICKET, the initiative had the aim of offering all children attending a state primary school in a footprint area around south and east London with the opportunity to access support to progress through and in cricket.
It soon became apparent that the Platform Cricket model could be replicated more widely and the project has grown exponentially since. It is now a significant contributor to personal, social, and sporting development for children in Greater London and especially in inner London.
Each week our coaches identify a PLAYER OF THE WEEK from the 3,000+ children we work with, as a recognition of their talent, efforts or improvement.
This week's PLAYER OF THE WEEK Award goes to Ramone from Colville Primary School in Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea.
Ramone was fantastic throughout her sessions last half term but she really excelled in game week where her understanding & leadership came to the fore.