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Levelling the playing field in Rotherham

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Organisations in Sheffield and Rotherham will be part of a national project investigating how physical activity and sport can reduce over-representation of minority and ethnic groups in youth justice.

Ten organisations from across Sheffield and Rotherham will be supported by Yorkshire Sport Foundation (YSF) over the next three years, as part of the Levelling the Playing Field project.

The £1.7m project is led by the Alliance of Sport in partnership with the Youth Justice Board, and is driven by extensive research that shows BAME children are less likely to take part in physical activity, and more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system.

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By working alongside local people and organisations across four initial target areas – London, the West Midlands, Gwent and South Yorkshire – Levelling the Playing Field is helping to develop the support already available in communities.

Rotherham United Community Sports Trust are set to be the first Local Delivery Partner nationwide to start delivering Level the Playing Field as part of their weekly sport and physical activity programme.

The ten organisations will provide data on existing sessions as well as stories from participants.  Each organisation will also choose two members of staff to be trained as mentors, with a specific expertise in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).  All organisations will be brought together annually to share their learning.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for youth providers in Sheffield and Rotherham,” said Kathryn Mudge, co-lead for the YSF Communities work.

“They will be able to share their practice across the country, learn from like-minded organisations and develop additional mentoring skills. The project will recruit and train ten Mentors, all of whom will complete Level 3 Public Health and Trauma Responsive Mentoring qualification- a real bonus for the two districts and our young people.”

In Rotherham, the first project is a girls-only drop-in fitness session which takes place in the health suite at the AESSEAL New York Stadium. The suite can facilitate weight training, circuits and cardio work and has boxercise equipment and TRX cables. The girls, many of whom are from BAME backgrounds, decide each week which activities to do.

“We tailor it completely to them,” says RUCST’s Inclusion Manager, Trudi Race. “What we’ve found from working with Muslim girls in particular is that privacy is very important to them when doing sport and physical activity. It’s important to them to have a female instructor, that no-one can see through the windows and no male staff can just walk through. It’s a secure, safe place for them.”

A community football session for boys is to be RUCST’s other dedicated weekly Levelling the Playing Field delivery setting. This will build on the Trust’s current football and boxing offerings in the nearby areas of Ferham, Masborough and Eastwood that are attended by young people from a great mixture of backgrounds including Roma-Slovak, Pakistani, Tamil and Yemeni.

Ahead of launch, the Trust’s delivery staff will undergo mentoring training which Trudi sees as a major benefit of signing up to Levelling the Playing Field. “That is something we don’t currently offer so we’re really keen on developing it through you guys. Being able to mentor a case load of young people who are currently disengaged from sport, education and employment is a great opportunity.”

Zanib Rasool MBE, RUCST’s Partnership and Development Manager, added that being able to better record the impact of their programmes was another attraction of coming on board.

“We deliver really good work and we see the benefits and impact it makes on the individual, but we would welcome support to get better at recording and evidencing that impact,” she admitted. “We have struggled to find the right tool and a lot of our current monitoring is just numbers – we miss that qualitative element. The evidencing is really appealing and helpful to us as an organisation, and puts us in a stronger position in terms of attracting future funding.”

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Tom Austen
Tom grew up in Aston, Rotherham and studied Human Geography at Nottingham Trent University before developing a passion for promoting Rotherham and a nose for a good story.

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