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Influencing the Influencers in Our Secondary Schools

The years, they just fly by, don't they?

Sporting Marvels started way back in 2003, and our first school was Tonypandy Comprehensive School, which has undergone not one, but two name changes in the years since, and is now a new 3-16 school, Ysgol Nantgwyn. While the Mighty Marvels Programme in the primary schools helps us make a difference to the “many”, the All-Star Programme in our partner secondary schools, allows us to focus on the “few” – although at over 200 All-Stars, "few" doesn't quite do the programme justice!!

The All-Star Programme is the jewel in the Sporting Marvels crown, and it's evolved many times over the years so that it can have an ever-greater impact on Rhondda’s secondary school pupils. The comp stint is a 5-7 year marathon in what is a kind of modern-day colosseum in many ways, as pupils battle with the challenges of being a young person in our modern day society.

The key goal of the All-Star Programme is to "influence the influencers" and develop them into quality young leaders who can have a positive effect on their peers and their communities. By focusing on the more able and talented within the PE faculties and playing a leading role in secondary school sports academies, we’re able to do this effectively while at the same time, helping schools meet their extra-curricular targets. All the modern-day Marvels are former All-Stars who are doing a fantastic job influencing hundreds of Rhondda children on an ongoing and daily basis.

After three years in the All-Star Programme, the All-Star reaches Year 10, where the leadership aspects and development move to centre stage. The Leaders are given opportunities to lead small teams, go away on three residential trips every year and even visit Tanzania in East Africa, when they get into 6th form.

"These are all key aspects that allow us to keep the All-Stars engaged for up to seven years,"Team Leader Smithy told inFocus. “But everything starts in Year 7 when we select 10 boys and 10 girls based on what we've seen and observed during the children's time with us in the Mighty Marvels Programme in the primary schools. Though I would say that the door is never closed on late developers and we select pupils in partnership with the PE staff. I was one of those not chosen myself, joining the programme when I was 15 instead!! Standards are very high in terms of commitment, attitude and behaviour and the numbers whittle down the higher up the age range you go. When the pupils reach Year 10 they become part of the Leadership Academy which lasts until Year 13 or when they leave school. The Academy focuses on helping the All-Stars become more confident, gain greater leadership skills and work with others in team environments. I love the fact that the All-Star Programme has a real sense of family too, where everyone feels a sense of belonging, the older ones acting as quality role models to the younger All-Stars coming up behind them. It's awesome to observe their journey, entering as little Year 7’ers and leaving as mature, well-rounded, quality leaders who are often playing a part in supporting provision in their school or community by the time they leave school. It's personal transformation in action!"

To give you, our inFocus readers, a sense of how Sporting Marvels and the All-Star programme in particular, is viewed and appreciated by the secondary schools, we travelled down to Tonypandy to interview two of the school's key members of staff.

Acting Head Teacher, Nathan Prygodzicz, pictured top left, told us: “Sporting Marvels' contribution to all aspects of school life is huge! Smithy and the team significantly enrich the curriculum and wider participation opportunities across a wide range of subjects and other very important areas. The Marvels are all highly professional and valued members of staff and we, as a school, are incredibly thankful to be able to count on the outstanding contribution Sporting Marvels makes to the school and our pupils.”

Mr John Davies, current Head of PE, was equally full of praise… “Ian is the heartbeat of the Football Academy and his knowledge, skills and coaching ability is the key reason that football has grown in the way it has at Tonypandy. He, along with Lauren, Naomi and Deanna, are a real credit to Sporting Marvels. The four of them are always dressed impeccably and are faultless in their attitude, reliability, willingness and general helpfulness. Nothing is ever too much for them! Their ‘people skills’ and 'relationship skills’ are exemplary with both students and other members of staff and it’s no surprise that Sporting Marvels activities are the most popular at the school. They command genuine respect and often have more pull than staff, often finding that middle ground for pupils as the ‘go to’ people. This influence has an impact that goes wider than the All-Star Programme and reaches right across the school. It also encourages our students to interact vertically age-wise, rather than just with peers of the same age. All of us at Ysgol Nantgwyn are very appreciative for our partnership with Sporting Marvels!!”

Sounds like the All-Star Programme is very much on course!!