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By Laura Taylor, Aug 6 2020 11:43AM

2020 – the year the world came to a standstill. No one ever saw it coming, but in a matter of weeks flights stopped, borders closed and people around the world were asked to stay at home.

As the UK went into lockdown in late March, so did the schools, and for school tour operator Rayburn Tours, this made the situation even more complicated.

Group travel specialists since 1965, Rayburn Tours is an independent, family-run business that’s dedicated to creating tailor-made educational, sports and ski trips for schools.

Managing director Jamie Boyden explained: “We were challenged on both ends of our operational chain. We were dealing with cancelled trips for schools – many of which had staff working remotely, and in some cases, not easily able to make contact with all parents – and we were dealing with suppliers in countries that are also in lockdown and in some cases unable to respond.”

“We’ve always been proud of our individual, tailored service. For decades, we’ve been telling schools how we work with each client individually to provide them with the tour that matches their needs, and in times like these it’s never been so important to be dealt with as an individual.”

Rayburn Tours recently announced their number one aim was to ensure their clients were not left out of pocket by a situation that was beyond anyone’s control.

Whether they postponed tours, helped groups claim on their insurance or issued a refund, the team worked tirelessly to ensure their clients wouldn’t lose out financially – and the work still continues.

Jamie added: “Does this approach mean it takes longer for all clients to get a resolution? Unfortunately, yes, as we are liaising with airlines, hoteliers and range of suppliers all around the world. But the pay-off is that it ensures our clients get the best outcome for their group.”

“Many have chosen to postpone their tour to 2021 in the anticipation that normal travel will resume. However, for groups where this is not possible and a refund is being issued, we are committed to doing everything we can to achieve this in 12-16 weeks.”

And it seems that this level of customer service, and the ability to be able to offer financial peace of mind, has given schools the confidence to start thinking about the future.

Jamie said: “Schools are still booking trips for 2021 with us which is fantastic to see, as it means they’re still keen to give their students the opportunity to learn in some of the most incredible destinations around the world – and we’re pleased to be able to help them facilitate this safely and confidently.”

So what does the future of travel look like?

“Well, the answer is, companies simply don’t know. Tour operators like Rayburn Tours will continue to monitor the developing situation closely, continue to communicate with clients, and adapt what they do to offer as much flexibility as possible to help schools plan future trips and, eventually, travel.

“We must be optimistic that a level of normality will return in all areas of our lives soon and, for our own mental health, we must give ourselves something to look forward to. And that thing is travel.”

By Laura Taylor, Jul 27 2020 11:15AM

A blueprint for the return of schools’ football has been improved by the Government.

The English School Football Association have confirmed that competitive grassroots soccer can resume with Covid safety measures in place.

It means that national, regional and local tournaments will be able to resume when the new term begins in September.

Until July 31, teams can begin competitive training, with the overall group size (inclusive of coaches) being limited to 30 people.

From August 1, competitive matches can begin, for example pre-season fixtures, festivals and small sided football competitions

And from September , leagues and cup competitions can commence once associations, schools and facility providers have completed the necessary risk assessments and comprehensive plans are in place.

At this stage, indoor football and Futsal is not permitted although the FA is working with indoor facility providers to develop appropriate guidance for indoor formats as soon as possible.

By Laura Taylor, Jul 15 2020 10:05AM

Rising stars from the world of cricket, hockey, netball and rugby have been taking part in a series of online question and answer sessions with pupils, parents and staff from Harrogate’s Ashville College.

Director of sport Dominic Bradburne has organised the live video specials where the audience not only gets a front row seat in these highly popular sessions, but more importantly has the opportunity to quiz the sportsmen and sportswomen about their careers, training regimes, inspirations and aspirations.

The first event kicked off with Worcestershire County Cricket Club players Ed Barnard and Pat Brown, which was followed by an audience with Bath Rugby Union players Joe Cokanasiga and Zach Mercer, son of Gary Mercer, the College’s head of rugby.

These were followed by live sessions featuring hockey players Ollie Payne and Nick Park, who both play for England, Kerry-Anne Hastings, who is a senior Scottish international, and Sarah Bertram, who has a wealth of experience coaching within the Player Pathways, as well as being a lead coach at Durham University

From the world of netball, Anna Carter, a former England international who is now director of netball at Leeds Rhinos, and Jessica Shaw, who plays for Loughborough Lightning in the Vitality Super League, have both taken part.

Following on their heels were Yorkshire County Cricket Club players Jordan Thompson, Ben Coad and Harry Brook, all of whom have links with local league cricket clubs within 30 miles of Ashville.

Next was the turn of Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver and Nottingham Forest Captain and former England International Michael Dawson.

Whilst former England International Michael and his Forest teammates are chasing promotion to the Premier League, Simon is leading the charge as Town seek to enter the Football League for the first time in the club’s history.

Mr Bradburne, who joined Ashville at the beginning of this term, said: “I’d like to thank all of the sportsmen and sportswomen for participating in our question and answer sessions.

“The aim of the evenings is for the audience – pupils, staff and parents – to find out about the individuals, their careers, early influences, training programmes and future aspirations.

“Other questions posed over the course of the evenings included “Who’s your favourite teammate?”, “What has your diet been like during lockdown?”, “How do you cope with pressure?”, and “Do you have any pre-game superstitions?”

“Video conferencing is now the new norm and the plan going forward is to have these on a regular basis, where sports players can be ‘beamed in’ to Ashville from all over the world.”

By Laura Taylor, Jul 6 2020 03:21PM

Fears that primary schools would miss out on funding for sport and PE have been allayed.

Another £320m to fund the sector in the 2020/21 year has been confirmed by the government – much to the delight of campaigners.

Also any Primary PE and Sport Premium funding from the current academic year (2019-20) that schools were unable to use as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are allowed to be carried forward to utilise in the next academic year.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, said: “During these challenging times, it has become clearer to me than ever the importance of keeping active and how it benefits not just our physical health but also our ability to pay attention, our mood and our mental health too.”

“Every family will have had a different experience of the pandemic, and I know that many children will have missed time spent outdoors with their friends – that’s why it’s so important that ahead of a full return to school in September, schools get the certainty they need to prepare their PE and sports activities for next year.”

The PE Premium is designed to help children get an active start in life, supporting primary schools to improve the quality of their PE and sport provision so that pupils experience the benefits of regular exercise – from becoming healthier both mentally and physically to improved behaviour and better academic achievement.

The funding is a ring-fenced grant for English primary schools to provide additional and sustainable improvements to the quality of PE, sport and physical activity.

Allocations to schools are determined by a formula based on pupil numbers. The average one form entry primary school will receive roughly £18,000 per year.

Sue Wilkinson, CEO of the Association for Physical Education, said: “We are delighted by the decision. All children and young people are entitled to a statutory high-quality PE curriculum that develops physical competence, confidence, leadership skills, resilience and character.”

By Laura Taylor, Jul 3 2020 09:53AM

A roadmap outlining how rugby could return in Scotland for the 2020/21 season has been unveiled by Scottish Rugby today.

Scottish Rugby’s six staged roadmap for clubs and schools is aligned to the Scottish Government’s own phased exit from lockdown and in line with recommendations from World Rugby.

Taking physical distancing and Scottish Government’s own phased routemap into account clubs are being advised that no adult competitive rugby is envisaged before October 2020.

This is due to the number of stages to be worked through and, specifically, the uncertainty around timing of when full adult contact rugby training and therefore matches can resume.

Clubs should not expect a traditional season in 2020/21. The rugby season may look very different, with regional and/or local fixtures likely to replace the competitive league programmes at many levels in order to stay in line with Scottish Government Guidelines, physical distancing and travel restrictions.

Clubs and schools will be required to meet three specific criteria before any rugby activity can begin and meet further requirements before full contact training and matches can begin.

Compliance with the public health, hygiene and physical distancing requirements in place locally at that time will be required at all times.

Clubs will be required to meet the following criteria:

- Undertake regular risk assessments of indoor and outdoor facilities, (when appropriate), including checks across club utilities such as electricity, fire alarms, gas and water and such factors to ensure a safe environment for players, coaches, volunteers and visitors to return to.

- Appoint a Covid-19 Safety Co-ordinator in each club before any activity can begin. The purpose of this role is to oversee public health and safety measures across the club, ensuring that the club is operating in a safe manner and adheres to Scottish Government and Scottish Rugby guidelines.

- All coaches, match officials and volunteers to have completed a mandatory online Scottish Rugby online course before traditional full contact training and matches encompassing a specific World Rugby endorsed Covid-19 module.

Scottish Rugby is committing support and resources to help clubs meet the criteria and ensure the resumption of training, leading to competitive rugby, is undertaken safely and in line with Scottish Government Guidelines.

To address the most common question posed by clubs around when certain activities can take place Scottish Rugby’s Return to Rugby Roadmap illustrates the sequence of events which need to happen until such time as competitive rugby can resume.

The implementation of phase 3 by the Scottish Government of its lockdown easing will enable Scottish Rugby to begin stage 3 of its own roadmap which could allow the adult game to “Return to Train” for small groups, with potential for gyms to open.

Further guidance on the return of contact rugby for Children and Young People (as per the Scottish Government announcement on 24 June) will be issued to clubs soon.

Scottish Government’s phase 4 will begin once the Covid virus is suppressed to low levels and is no longer deemed a significant risk to the public.

This could trigger Scottish Rugby to move to its final set of stages, starting with stage 4 which could enable a “Return to Train” for larger groups with the introduction of modified contact, activities (e.g. small sided games with a modified tackle and breakdown area).

The game may then be able to progress to Scottish Rugby’s Return to Rugby Stage 5 which opens up “Return to Play” opportunities, with potential friendly matches and full team training possible, Stage 5 also indicates the potential opening of club houses and indoor facilities.

The Return to Rugby Roadmap will conclude with Phase 6 which could allow competitive matches to commence.

Scottish Rugby continues to work closely with Scottish Government and sportscotland to ensure a Return to Rugby is undertaken in a safe manner as Scotland recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. A specific adult competitive season start date will be issued in due course as more clarity emerges and will be subject to the latest government advice at the time.

Scottish Rugby will also provide clarity soon on the return of competitive rugby in youth and women’s rugby season.

Speaking about the announcement, Sheila Begbie, Scottish Rugby’s director of rugby development said: “These are really uncertain times and our priority is to ensure that a return to rugby is done only when it is safe to do so. Despite Scotland making good progress in relation to Covid-19 we must all remember that the virus has not gone away.

“The safety of our rugby community is paramount, and we hope the Return to Rugby Roadmap provides some clarity for clubs to support them with their planning and re-engaging with their players, volunteers and parents. Following discussion with the Scottish Government a potential re-start to the season in October seems realistic. Our re-start to the season will be highly dependent on Scotland’s continued progress out of lockdown and against the Scottish Government’s Routemap phases.

"We would very much like to communicate to clubs and schools that the 2020-21 season will be different, and we look forward to being able to specify more details in the very near future."

Ian Barr, vice-president of Scottish Rugby said: “I am delighted Scottish Rugby is in a position to share this important Roadmap guidance with clubs and schools. I know there has been a lot of work undertaken by the Threat Management Group and Rugby Development on this plan and the clarity being issued is very welcome.

“The support of the Scottish Government has been hugely helpful and I fully endorse the responsible approach we are taking.

“I know clubs will be itching to return to play but it is vital this phased approach is followed and we continue to keep everyone involved in the sport we love both safe and informed.”

By Laura Taylor, Jul 2 2020 10:18AM

Harrogate’s Ashville College has appointed a new director of sport.

Dominic Bradburne – a Leeds Beckett Carnegie graduate – has joined the 850-strong pupil school after four years heading up the PE department of an independent school in Shropshire.

Since joining Ashville after the Easter break, Dominic has already started making his mark, including launching a series of online question and answer sessions with leading rugby, cricket, hockey and netball players, many of whom have played at national and international level.

Additionally, he is helping to support an initiative between Ashville College, CNG and Harrogate Rugby Club, for a new Harrogate Health Hub to boost the fitness and wellbeing of the local community.

The Hub will host a million “CNG Power Hours” driven by the expert knowledge of the coaching team at the club and pupils from Ashville College, many of whom play for the club.

Mr Bradburne’s arrival comes on the back of two other recent key signings made by Ashville, as it looks to further enhance its sports reputation.

Last year former NBA professional basketball player Voise Winters - who at the height of his career faced Michael Jordan on the court – became the college’s first basketball coach. In addition, Gary Mercer, a former New Zealand international, was appointed the new role of head of rugby.

Ashville College headmaster Richard Marshall said: “We are delighted that Dominic has joined Ashville as our new director of sport. Sport is a very important part of school life, and over the last few years we have invested heavily in both facilities and people.

“The recent £3.8m redevelopment of our sports centre is accessible to all pupils from across the college and now boasts a state-of-the-art gym, dance studio, 30m swimming pool, two indoor sports halls, climbing wall and a number of tennis and squash courts.

“Dominic has extensive experience in transforming the sports curriculum, building relationships with external sports clubs, and helping pupils of all abilities to excel in their chosen sport.”

As an all-rounder, Dominic has played cricket for various teams in the Shropshire Premier League, Birmingham League, and represented Shropshire at all age groups, played football for Shrewsbury Town, Kidderminster Harriers and Hereford United and rugby for Shrewsbury Rugby Club and Church Streeton Samurais.

By Laura Taylor, Jun 25 2020 08:27AM

Sports stars have urged the Government to retain the country’s primary school sport funding.

Figures including Sir Mo Farah and Hannah Cockroft have written an open letter

outlining the potentially “catastrophic” consequences if a £320 million package is cut.

The PE and Sport Premium, mainly funded by the sugar tax on soft drinks, provides ring-fenced funding of £16,000 for each primary school each year to invest in sport and activity.

But, just as an inactivity among young people has worsened dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, there has been no confirmation of its future status.

The uncertainty has put key jobs at risk and raised fears over the potentially disastrous consequences for the physical and mental health of children.

The letter to government says that the country must do everything “to help young people reconnect and recover from the damage done to their wellbeing in recent months.”

It outlines how the PE Premium has changed numerous lives, but says that the current uncertainty has meant that schools are “being severely compromised in their ability to plan support for young people’s physical and mental health”.

The letter ends: “We fear that any withdrawal of support for physical education and school sport at this critical time could be catastrophic for a generation of young people who have never needed them more. We urge government to signal its commitment to young people’s wellbeing by confirming this essential funding without further delay.”

Signatories include current England rugby and hockey internationals such as Manu Tuilagi and Maddie Hinch to past icons Steve Cram and Martin Offiah and BBC presenter Clare Balding.

Farah, the four-time Olympic and six-time world champion, stressed that the early years of “childhood is what shapes you” and said that being active from a young age was the foundation for his love of sport.

Cockroft, a five-time Parlaympic champion and 12-time world champion, said she would “hate to see any young person miss out on school sport” and that “there shouldn’t even be a question over this funding”.

The letter, which coincides with the Youth Sport Trust's first ever virtual schools sports week, follows alarming new research which shows how children’s activity levels have dropped during the coronavirus lockdown.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty recommends that children complete an average of at least 60 minutes of activity every day but between just 14 and 22 per cent have been achieving that during lockdown.

Even more alarming, around one in 10 children reported doing no daily activity. Four out of 10 children said that a lack of activity had made them feel worse during lockdown.

Former Conservative ministers Baroness Nicky Morgan and Tracey Crouch have also both tabled parliamentary questions to seek urgent clarity.

The Department for Education said that the Government “wants to ensure all children are getting an active start in life”, but said that “the position of the PE and Sport Premium in the 2020/21 academic year will be confirmed in due course”.

By Laura Taylor, Jun 20 2020 10:48AM

Four million young people say they plan to do more sport and exercise as they come out of lockdown and return to school.

New research published by children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust today to mark the start of National School Sport Week at Home shows that one consequence of weeks of lockdown has been that many young people now see sport and physical education as more important to their lives.

Families and schools across the country are set to put on their own virtual sports days and weeks as part of National School Sport Week at Home (20 to 26 June) in an effort to make up for the millions of young people missing out on a school sport day this summer.

Youth Sport Trust chief executive Ali Oliver said: “Sport has such power to bring people together and to improve lives, even through the most difficult of times.

“As families and schools across the country prepare to put on their own school sport events as part of National School Sport Week at Home, this research offers a timely reminder of the important role that sport and physical education have to play in helping young people cope with the impact COVID-19 has had on their physical, social and emotional development.”

More than 4,000 families, schools, sport governing bodies and organisations have signed up to join in this week’s National School Sport Week at Home.

The campaign, led by the Youth Sport Trust, is encouraging families, communities, schools and sports clubs to engage in a series of virtual sporting challenges which bring people together.

The Youth Sport Trust has made free guides and resources available for anyone who signs up providing ideas for challenges, activities and a guide to help plan the week in way which emphasises the positive impact of sport on young people’s wellbeing.

For more information go to

By Laura Taylor, Jun 19 2020 09:28AM

A primary schools programme created by the Premier League and supported by 110 professional football clubs has seen downloads of its free curriculum-linked education resources soar during lockdown.

Premier League Primary Stars, fun and engaging football-linked activities, have been downloaded more than 20,000 times by families and teachers since March.

Among the most popular has been a maths and spelling game called Solve, Shoot, Score which features animations of Premier League footballers and has had more than 31,000 plays since schools closed.

Nick Perchard, head of community at the Premier League said: “We want our new home-learning resources to inspire children and families across the country to keep learning, remain active and stay connected with friends, family and neighbours.

“We have been working with teachers and parents to create these resources for a home or school environment. Every resource supports the curriculum and is designed to educate and entertain children by connecting learning to the real world of sport.”

Free teaching materials ensure the programme, which covers everything from PE and maths to resilience and teamwork, is available to every primary school in England and Wales.

During lockdown Premier League Primary Stars has made selected resources freely accessible to families via a home learning hub and set weekly Friday challenges:

By Laura Taylor, May 28 2020 09:39AM

Children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust and Sky Sports have teamed up on a campaign to unite young people and communities through sport and promote wellbeing this summer.

With millions of young people set to miss out on a school sport day, the Youth Sport Trust’s annual National School Sport Week campaign will this year be opened up to parents and families and reinvented as National School Sport Week at Home.

Taking place from 20 to 26 June, the UK-wide campaign will give families, communities, schools and sports clubs the opportunity to engage in a series of virtual sporting challenges which help young people capture the enjoyment, competition and camaraderie they have been missing out on during weeks of school closures and social distancing.

People can register to take part in the campaign. Anyone signing up will receive videos and activity cards to help them plan a series of challenges across the week for their families, neighbours, friends or colleagues.

In previous years National School Sport Week has seen thousands of schools join in a week-long celebration of school sport and Physical Education, and their important role enhancing young people’s wellbeing.

Sky Sports will supercharge this year’s campaign, helping to inspire families across the country to take part.

National governing bodies of sport will also be supporting the week, with several appointing stars of their sport as school sport champions.

Youth Sport Trust chief executive Ali Oliver said: “The Youth Sport Trust and Sky Sports share a passionate belief in the power of sport to change lives and unite us, even through the most difficult times.

“Right now, young people are missing their friends and missing the sense of connection they get through sport. Sport has such a crucial role to play in promoting young people’s wellbeing and this has never been more apparent than it is now. After weeks of isolation we hope that YST National School Sport Week at Home 2020 can help bring families, communities, schools and sports clubs back together.”