The past year has seen some of the most important changes for Dallaglio RugbyWorks since its formation in 2009. In fact, I have just given you a clue on one of our biggest changes – we have changed our name from Dallaglio Foundation to Dallaglio RugbyWorks. This may not sound like a big achievement, but it symbolises the culmination of a lot of hard work over the past few years in understanding our true purpose and the impact we are making as a charity.
We know the power that rugby can have in helping young people and have known from the beginning that this is ‘how’ the Dallaglio RugbyWorks programme is able to make a difference. But our ‘why’ and ‘what’ as an organisation have been developed more organically as we’ve learnt along the way. We have now refined our mission, and really pinned down what it is that we truly want to achieve.
We’ve established that our goal is to help 14-17 year olds who have been excluded from mainstream education and attend Alternative Provision (AP) schools, develop and continue into sustained education, employment or training. Our now established, skills development programme, RugbyWorks, has become central to the charity and our goals.
I credit rugby for helping me to overcome some of the more turbulent and difficult times in my own life. As a young man, the power of rugby helped in transforming my attitude, behaviour and aspirations. For this reason, we use the values of the game in our programme to help put young people onto a more positive path.
So it is for these reasons, that my team and I are very excited that our new name, Dallaglio RugbyWorks, not only gives our purpose more clarity, but it is a confident statement about the impact rugby can have.
And in order to commit further, and have even more impact with the young people we aim to help, we have developed and extended our delivery programme introducing a third year.
Previously, our coaches spent 30 weeks per year, for two years, with a group of 8-10 young people, which is enough time for long-term relationships to be built. But after two years, the young people we work with had turned 16 years old and school life was ending – just at the same time as their relationships with their coaches were. So rather than break the tie at arguably one of the most challenging times for these teens, we have decided to extend our mentoring programme for one more year to help smooth the transition. I’m proud of this development and I am sure it will improve our longer-term results.
As we look forward, an equally important goal is to engage as many businesses in supporting these young people as possible. We need more partners to help facilitate work experience or, even better, set up and implement quality apprenticeship schemes. I’m delighted that 18% of our 2016 school leavers have secured an apprenticeship against a national backdrop of just 6% of apprenticeship applicants in mainstream education. So, while I’m pleased, I know that there is still a lot of work to do. But we can’t do it alone and we are incredibly grateful for the support of organisations like Halfords, Bidvest Logistics and Burberry.
I know first-hand how sport, rugby in particular, can shape and develop a young person by getting them active and developing the vital soft skills needed for a positive future. We have a tough task ahead to get our young people, often referred to as the hardest to reach, into sustained education, employment or training, but I know that with the tools we have, this is achievable.
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