Boxing4Schools is the first project of its kind in the UK, linking schools with local amateur boxing clubs and endeavouring to address disaffected youths, discipline, respect and the battle against obesity
Boxing4Schools is the first project of its kind in the UK, linking schools with local amateur boxing clubs and endeavouring to address disaffected youths, discipline, respect and the battle against obesity.
The scheme is run in conjunction with the Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) and, for the first time in nearly 50 years, allows secondary school pupils to learn the training skills of non-contact boxing as a regular part of their curriculum.
Founded in September 2005 by professional heavyweight Wayne Llewellyn, Boxing4Schools set out to introduce youngsters to non-contact boxing and help them reach new levels of discipline, control and self-esteem.
Llewellyn, with over 20 years’ boxing experience, approached his son’s school with an idea of introducing boxing skills on to the PE curriculum and, since initially launching the scheme at Kelsey Park Sports College in Bromley, Boxing4Schools now operates in 38 schools across five London boroughs, providing safe and fun lessons for their pupils.
Llewellyn believes introducing boxing back into state schools can help to improve school performance and tackle various elements of the government agenda.
He said: “Boxing is all about focus, discipline and control – all of which are transferrable into the classroom, making for a better learning environment.
“It is amazing the impact that boxing can have on young people’s attitude towards learning and everyday life. We want to make them understand, with these skills, they can go on to achieve anything they want.”
Besides the non-contact sessions incorporated into weekly PE classes, Boxing4Schools also operates 17 after-school clubs for those youngsters who wish to take the sport to a more advanced level.
Kelsey Park Sports College headteacher Brian Lloyd said: “It was obvious within three or four weeks of introducing the scheme that it was working remarkably well. Many people thought that boxing would incite violence but in fact it has done the complete opposite.”
He added: “We would like to set up a boxing academy but at present we don’t have the facilities. Just as with our football academy, boxing needs a space of its own.”
Llewellyn’s team is bursting with a wealth of professional boxing expertise, with both British heavyweight champion Julius Francis and former World heavyweight champion Frank Bruno also within the Boxing4Schools set up.
Bruno, who has demonstrated his support for the scheme at training and evening skills bouts, thinks the project can successfully address the key issues concerning the youth of today.
Bruno said: “People think boxing is all about being tough but it’s not. It is a great way for boys and girls to channel their aggression into something positive and, at the same time, improve their fitness and self-confidence.”
In a bid to uncover the talent of the future in time for the 2012 Olympics, Boxing4Schools gives the youngsters an opportunity to showcase their skills with the pupils and parents of the surrounding supporting schools. The events include a mix of boxing skill bouts, skill exhibitions and various dance performances.
All of the pupils pass full medicals in order to participate in the bouts, which have previously been overseen by world-class ABA referee Mik Basi, who is also tipped for involvement in the 2012 Olympics.
Llewellyn said: “Non-contact training improves balance, coordination and fitness as well as helping students to acquire new mental and physical skills.”
Before putting on his boxing gloves Ben Webster, 16, was on the verge of exclusion when the Boxing4Schools programme came into play at Hayes Secondary School, Bromley.
Mrs Webster, mother of two, said: “We were quite desperate. Ben’s attitude and behavior had been a problem right throughout his school life. We are delighted with Ben’s progress and application to his studies since he began boxing. We have certainly noticed an all round improvement.
“Now I can see Ben going on to sixth form and even university, where as 18 months ago I was worried whether he would even reach GCSE level.”
As just one of many success stories from the schools across Bromley, Ben said: “Before I began training with Wayne I was predicted Cs for my GCSE exams in May. Now I’m predicted As and Bs, so the difference it has made to my school work is brilliant. I don’t feel the need to mess around in class anymore, now that I’ve learned to channel my aggression, I can focus.”
The youngster, who hopes to go on and spar with British super-featherweight champion Kevin Mitchell, believes that a lot of Boxing4Schools’ success is down to the management, enthusiasm and passion of his coach, Llewellyn.
“Wayne is a good role model for all of us. He is always looking out for new opportunities to help us and to develop our skills. He took us to train in Wales last summer and he has taken us to other clubs in our local area too.”
On Ben’s involvement in the skill bouts, Mrs Webster added: “A few years ago there is no way Ben would have agreed to being one of two people that a room is focusing on but now he will get into the ring at these events and that in itself is an achievement.”
Boxing4Schools is also reaching out to referral units in an effort to steer disaffected pupils back into education. Bromley’s Groveland, Kingswood and Burwood are among the first to take up the recently launched Focus First programme, along with Willowbank in Peckham.
Llewellyn is looking to replicate Boxing4Schools throughout the country and develop the scheme overseas with his contacts in both Germany and Los Angeles.
He said: “In the long term I would like to continue to build support for the scheme and see the project rolled out nationwide. It would be great to form a schools championship or a mini league.”
Bromley Borough police commander, Superintendent Griggs, who attended The Priory School’s first skills bout said: “What I witnessed was controlled, well managed, energetic and obviously fun. I look forward to Boxing4Schools contributing to a bright and positive future for our young people.”
The Frank Bruno Boxing Academy
Claire Bloomfield is a freelance sports journalist