For a second year running, we partnered with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to deliver the Youth Schools programme. It’s an initiative that encourages children to get active through tennis, enhancing coaching and improving PE lessons held in primary schools across the country.
The exclusive partnership supports all primary schools across England. It’s free to join and equipment, sports delivery, and high-quality training for school staff are all included.
At Premier Education, we strive to deliver stimulating physical activities that encourage children to adopt a happy and healthy lifestyle. Partnering with the LTA enhances our efforts in doing so by making school P.E educational, engaging, and enjoyable for kids through tennis provision.
Our successful pilot campaign last summer saw 314 schools sign up. To understand how the programme was received by pupils and teachers, we spoke to Sarah Bartholomew, a P.E teacher at Whatfield Primary School and Tom Gibbins, head of education and community at LTA. They each provide insight on why schools have struggled to offer tennis in the past, how Premier Education’s delivery of LTA’s Youth Schools programme has helped to tackle this issue and how it has benefitted children and teachers alike.
In comparison to other popular sports in England, such as football and cricket, tennis has struggled to gain the same engagement in primary schools.
It seems there is a lack of encouragement from schools to provide tennis sessions regularly and that in-turn raises a series of critical questions. Is it due to a lack of teaching expertise? Insufficient tennis equipment in the school? Or is there a lack of interest from pupils?
“There’s a perception issue with tennis in schools”, Tom Gibbins from the LTA claims. Many schools may have staff that have a good understanding of the sport but struggle to deliver it to kids.
Sarah Bartholomew, from Whatfield Primary School, adds to this perspective, “I might deliver tennis, but I wouldn’t do a six-week block of just tennis”.
Limited exposure, expertise and resources can be assumed as the culprits behind an evident lack of confidence to deliver tennis in primary schools.
Assessing the issues identified, Premier Education & the LTA saw an opportunity to change the landscape of school-based tennis delivery.
After recognising the low uptake of tennis in schools, the LTA began their mission to get more children active in the sport whilst improving provision in primary education. As a result, the Youth Schools programme was born.
Tennis needed a fresh look, something that would get schools more involved and change the perception that had been developed in primary education. “One of the overarching reasons for LTA Youth being born was we wanted to clean up and simplify, whilst at the same time improving and enhancing” Tom Gibbins goes on to explain.
The LTA identified Premier Education, the leading provider of primary school sports and physical activity in the UK, as the ideal partner to collaborate with. Utilising expertise that has been developed over a 20-year period; we already had the know-how to introduce kids to new activities on a regular basis whilst creating memorable experiences. Coupled with access to our country-wide network of schools, we supported LTA in planting the programme in primary education in England. Schools were contacted to not only introduce tennis provision, receive equipment and delivery of sessions, but also make sure tennis would become a more accessible sport for younger audiences.
Tom Gibbins explains, “Partnering with Premier Education is a bold move for us because we’ve not done anything like it in the past. It’s a no-brainer because it’s a way of growing our sport. We try and make it as easy as possible to deliver and have a ‘by teacher, for teachers’ approach.”
The programme, which continues to run in 2022, is completely free for schools to join and they receive inclusive PE lesson plans, personal development resources and training.
A two-day taster was also presented as an option for schools to show how the programme could reignite their PE offering and spark a new source of excitement amongst pupils. By receiving assurances in equipment and training from expert tennis coaches, school staff would have enhanced confidence to deliver tennis more often, making participation a possibility for many children.
Sarah Bartholomew agrees with this idea and thinks that most schools would be interested providing there is guarantee of support. “I know if there’s an offer of support there, to have somebody else in, the schools are quite grateful for it.”
By the end of summer 2021, 314 schools had signed up to the programme, giving over 12,500 pupils the chance to enjoy tennis during P.E. lessons. The reaction from kids up and down the country served as evidence, with children enjoying the opportunity to pick up a tennis racquet – many of them for the first time.
Sarah recalled that “the children loved it! There was a sense of achievement because they could do what they were being asked to do within the sessions.”
It’s no coincidence that children and staff have taken so quickly to the programme and demonstrate an excitement to play tennis. Along with the LTA, our Activity Professionals tailored all aspects of the programme to the needs of the kids and teachers. Our Activity Professionals are used to teaching kids new skills and creating fun, memorable experiences, so delivering this programme in schools was no different. Through activities that focus on tennis fundamentals such as serving, backhand, forehand and footwork, our coaches ensure each session is fresh and fun, resulting in happy and healthy children.
Laurence York, Head of Partnerships at Premier Education explains, “The work we are doing with the LTA is a really positive step towards improving tennis participation, quality of teaching and resources in schools. Everyone is a winner with this partnership and most importantly, in partnership with the LTA, we have the ability to provide children with new opportunities to take part and learn about a sport they may not have had access to previously. The resources and equipment provided through this partnership are excellent and the feedback from schools children and teachers has been really positive”.
With success in schools and a fantastic response from teachers, it has to led to the re-introduction of the programme in the summer of 2022.
We’ve partnered with the LTA for a second year running with a motivation to continue creating opportunities for kids to play tennis and encourage more schools to deliver engaging sessions more often.
Schools that took part in the first year of the programme like Whatfield Primary, have seen vast improvements in their tennis delivery and will continue to use the programme to support their PE lessons.
“I’ll keep using the programme because I plan for the other teachers as well, so to provide them with something where there are video clips as well as just print-out lesson plans is really useful,” Sarah shares.
In collaboration with LTA, we’re offering primary schools that are new to the programme free tennis delivery by our expert coaches, lesson plans, teacher training, a range of personal development resources for pupils as well as a £250 voucher for tennis equipment.
To enquire about adding tennis to your PE provision, visit here today!