National Sky Sports award for girls of Kirk Hallam academy

OUR HERO -- the Kirk Hallam girls meet Jonny Wilkinson, who presented them with their award.
OUR HERO -- the Kirk Hallam girls meet Jonny Wilkinson, who presented them with their award.

A sports project run by Kirk Hallam Community Academy in a bid to improve students’ self-esteem, attendance and aspirations has scooped a top national award.

The Activate project has been named the best in the UK and Ireland by Sky Sports Living for Sport, a scheme that sees athletes working as mentors in schools across the country.

There were more than 200 nominations for the awards, and the judging panel included Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, Baroness Sue Campbell, chair of the Youth Sport Trust and head of England women’s football, and Darren Campbell, Olympic gold medallist and Sky Academy ambassador.

As a reward, the students involved in the project won a visit to Twickenham Stadium and took part in a special sporting masterclass at Sky Studios in London.

They were also surprised by England rugby legend and Sky Academy ambassador Jonny Wilkinson, who presented them with their award.

Head teacher Martin Ebbage said: “This project had a direct impact on the girls who took part and we are thrilled that it has won such a prestigious national award.

“At Kirk Hallam, we are always looking for innovative ways to engage our students in education, and this project is a good example of that. The group had a fantastic day at Twickenham, and Jonny Wilkinson is such an inspirational role model.”

The project was set up by Lorraine Stone, former head of PE at Kirk Hallam, who said: “I am really pleased that the girls’ hard work and focus have been recognised at a national level. At different points during the project, there were barriers to overcome for each girl, but they really excelled.

“The vehicle of PE and sport can be so powerful with regards to raising self-esteem. This project is an example of how it can make a real difference and is something I was always passionate about when working at the school.”

The project entailed former international heavyweight boxer Dermot Gascoyne mentoring 17 year-ten girls, who participated in 11 sports sessions, including kickboxing, trampolining and fencing. Gascoyne held regular meetings with the girls to discuss academic progress, attendance and career aspirations. And results showed that the girls’ average attendance at school improved, while all of them showed an improvement in maths and English.