Dallaglio RugbyWorks is an intensive, long-term skills development programme based on rugby, through which we aim to get teenagers outside of mainstream education into sustained education, employment or training.

For young people across the nation, Thursday 24th August was a massive day. A revised GCSE scoring system and ‘tougher’ exams produced a confusing picture for young people and staff alike. 

While 53.4% of mainstream students can expect to achieve 5 GCSE passes (A*-C), that figure is a staggeringly low 1.4% for students in Alternative Provision. Put differently, 99% of children excluded from mainstream school leave Alternative Provision without the qualifications needed to access the workplace. 

Across London, RugbyWorks coaches went to support their young people as they received their results. Having got to know our students closely along the often difficult road to their GCSE exams, it was impossible not to feel nervous with them on their big day. As reports from coaches trickled in throughout the morning, it became clear that many of our young people had been up to the challenge. 

At the Limes College in Sutton, winners of the first RugbyWorks tournament of this year, there were some outstanding results. Becky, a veteran of three tournaments and at times the Limes’ star player on the pitch, put the exclamation mark on her progress this year with an A* in Art. She coupled this with strong passes in both Media and English. Meanwhile, perhaps the day’s most impressive performance came from another tournament regular, Munaf. He achieved 7 GCSEs in total, 5 of which were at A*- C grade. In doing so, he defied the 100/1 odds that said he couldn’t. Most importantly, the grades were enough for him to take up his place at Cheam College to study Biology, Chemistry and Media; the next phase in his dream of becoming a cardiologist. 

Further west, at the Young People’s Academy in West Drayton, another RugbyWorks veteran was enjoying similar success. Coaches met with Ollie , a young person who epitomises the growth and personal development possible through hard work on our programme. Winner of the Most Improved Young Person of the year at our 2016 Dallaglio RugbyWorks Awards, Ollie has gone from strength to strength in his second year with us. Following successful employability days with McGee in particular, Ollie is already well on the way to a career in construction. He recently gained a place on the highly selective Keltbray Aspire engineering apprenticeship and took time out of his busy day on the construction site to collect his results. Again, he affirmed his position as a leader within his peer group, achieving the most GCSEs out of anyone at his school. He now moves on to take a college place alongside his apprenticeship and his coaches look forward to working closely with him as he enters his third mentoring year with RugbyWorks. 

At Francis Barber in Tooting, one of our original RugbyWorks schools, a face familiar to those who attended the Dallaglio RugbyWorks Awards was lit up with excitement, Marlon  who helped present the Teamwork Moment of the Year. As one of Marlon’s coaches throughout the year and now his mentor, I knew the importance of securing his place at John Ruskin College to study Film, Media and TV. Working in this industry has become his focus following two excellent employability days at Google and Group M, the world’s largest media investment group. It was a wonderful moment watching his face as the realisation dawned across it; he had done it. I caught up with him yesterday over the phone, enthused by his induction day at John Ruskin College. “I was so happy to get the grades I needed, I just couldn’t believe I’d done it. I’m looking forward to college now, it’s an exciting time.”

Of course, highlighting a handful of individuals does not do proper justice to each one of our RugbyWorks young people for whom GCSEs have been a tough challenge. As we collate the full set of results to analyse within the programme review, the overall picture still remains to be seen. There will be many who have not achieved the required grades who now face an anxious wait for re-marks and college decisions. It is exactly at this critical juncture that the value of our third mentoring year becomes clear. While Munaf, Ollie and Marlon will move seamlessly into education, employment or training (EET), many of our young people face a more uncertain future. It is their time now to apply the resilience and spirit that they have shown in RugbyWorks sessions in a new environment. Our coaches will continue this journey with them, playing an especially vital role for those whose destination is yet unclear. 


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