Neston High first booked a trip to South Africa in 2015 with inspiresport. They have since returned in 2018 and have another tour booked for 2020. But why has this experience become so popular in their school? We caught up with Mr. Steve Kelly – Head of PE to find out.
“My first encounter with inspiresport was via email in 2015” – he remembers. “I was receiving loads of them as the Head of PE but this one caught my attention because it was offering a roadshow opportunity in Liverpool with coaches from FC Porto. I couldn’t attend te roadshow but I sent two of my colleagues and a few of the children to meet the coaches and enjoy the masterclass. Upon their return, my fellow PE teachers shared how impressed they were with inspiresport. The event was organised on a very professional level and that had truly resonated with them.”
Mr. Kelly then met with the local inspiresport representative for the school’s area – Ian. Initially, the school only wanted to go away with the students for a couple of days, so they went on a weekend football tour to Fulham with 26 pupils. A couple of days after their return Ian had a phone call. Neston High was eager to book another tour! This time the Head of the School suggested South Africa as a destination because the school was already partnering with educational institutions from the country.
20 students and 3 teachers went on a multisport tour to South Africa to train in football, hockey, and netball. Because each sport was represented by about six/ seven pupils they got to not only compete but also train with their South African hosts. The mutual training sessions made the experience much more personal and allowed for friendships to be formed between the teams. Mr. Kelly shares that was an aspect he truly valued and insisted on keeping even when the tours became bigger. As well as fixtures with local teams and combined training sessions the pupils enjoyed excursions to Robben Island, Table Mountain, and Aquila Safari Private Game Reserve.
Upon their return, the party leaders from Neston High booked another trip. In 2018 revisited South Africa this time bringing 60 pupils with them. Mr. Kelly says he didn’t have to work hard to get the interest of the parents. The news of how great the experience was travelled fast. During this second tour a few more excursions were added to the list including Robben Island ferry trip & museum, Cape Point tour that included Seal Island boat cruise, Chapman’s Peak, Cape of Good Hope nature reserve, and Boulders Beach to view penguins.
Their latest tour, due to go out in 2020, already has an impressive number of 100 students and the waiting list keeps adding on new people.
I ask him what he thinks the positives for the students are and he talks about the difference in perspective the youngsters get, the cultural benefits, the enhanced sporting abilities and the feeling of independence. In fact, parent letters are always forthcoming after trips with tales of the new-found appreciation the pupils have. In one letter the parent explained how their child thinks about the less fortunate children he met out there every time they go out to buy him shoes.
Another beautiful anecdote that Ian shares with me is of how aware children become when going on such trips. “South Africa was going through one of their worst droughts in history during one of our tours. We didn’t want to alarm the children, however, there were signs about it everywhere. The hotel had little notes put up in the bathrooms asking if possible to stop the water whenever not in use. It wasn’t until our last day there when we realised how much of an impact that had made on the pupils. Mr. Kelly asked one of the boys what he is looking forward to when he goes back to the UK, as a way to distract him from the ‘holiday blues’ over the end of the tour. He thought for a second and said he was very sad about leaving but looked forward to showering for more than two minutes”.
“You see a different side of them.” Mr. Kelly says, “We got to volunteer at a local primary school in South Africa. Our pupils played football with the little children and even the ones who are usually a bit noisy or naughty were truly engaged in their aim to give the very best”
To end my conversation with Mr. Kelly I ask if he would recommend the inspiresport experience to other teachers. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.” – he says. He remembers the school didn’t use to go on as many sports tours before. It snowballed after that first ever email – now he feels like he is leaving a legacy.