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Rugby helps improve pupils' attitudes on and off the pitch.

Byline: Edited by Gareth Evans If you have an education story contact Gareth on 029 2024 3638 or email gareth.evans@walesonline.co.uk

A TROUBLED secondary school has hailed the impact of rugby in improving pupils' behaviour and attitudes to learning. Eastern High, in Cardiff, is one of dozens of schools using full-time officers to increase participation in rugby in the hope of broadening learners' horizons. In the first half-term of the school year, Eastern High's Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) school-club hub brought about a marked increase in the number of school fixtures and tournaments attended across all age groups - up to 18 fixtures and tournaments from just five last year.

It saw 120 curriculumbased sessions of touch rugby held, with an additional 22 sessions of extracurricular touch rugby involving 40 girls.

There were 28 sessions delivered by the school's hub officer - Cardiff Blues hooker Marc Breeze - in local feeder primaries, which engaged 71 boys and 61 girls, and a professional development course for club coaches was held at Eastern High.

In total, 19 new players transferred into club rugby from Eastern High, with Rumney, Old Illtydians and Llanrumney benefitted from emerging talent. But results have been no less startling off the field, according to Eastern High's headteacher Armando Di-Finizio.

He said: "Marc has a fantastic relationship with the kids; he runs inter-house touch rugby competitions every lunchtime and the general result of his input has certainly had a huge impact on the health of the students and their attitude towards school.

"Pupils who were on the brink of exclusion this time last year are nowhere near that now; they are engaged in all the activities in the school." Eastern High has endured a troubled start after launching in September 2013 following the merger of Llanrumney and Rumney high schools.

But having recorded some of Wales' worst GCSE results, there are signs the school is beginning to turn a corner and Estyn has praised "consistent progress" in improving safety, reducing exclusions and supporting pupils in Year 11.

Breeze said: "If you bring the values of rugby union into lessons and training sessions, we have seen the effects of that in the classroom too.

"Certainly, some teachers have told me that they have seen a positive change in children they had real problems with last year, so it's a 'win-win' situation."

Among the original 43 school-club hubs that launched last year, there has been an 18.4% increase in the number of teams playing matches in the first school half-term - 323 teams compared to 257 last year - and an 8% increase in the number of fixtures played - 1,073 compared to 991.

Figures show 767 school and college players joined rugby clubs as a result of the WRU scheme during the first half-term of this year.

Wales Office Minister Alun Cairns, who visited Eastern High, said: "The great benefit of sport in schools is that it teaches pupils to work as a team and rugby is playing a central role by supporting schools, who are in turn supporting rugby clubs.

"The partnership is not only helping to create stars of the future, but a more cohesive society and even better education standards."

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 7, 2015
Words:549
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