Sky Ireland has launched Sky Sports Living for Sport, a programme targeted at secondary schools across Ireland where athlete mentors, funded by the broadcaster, will provide support and skills training through sport to ultimately as many as one third of Irish schools.
Katie Taylor has been unveiled as Ireland’s main ambassador for the programme and she will be joined by others over the coming years.
The programme has run successfully in Britain over ten years and the number of mentors has climbed there from an original five to 78 today that visit schools and speak to disadvantaged children through the language of sport.
It is credited with helping social skills, teamwork, preventing bullying and giving kids a better chance of a good start in life once they emerge from school.
“Every child is born with the potential for greatness,” said Taylor at a well attended launch in Dublin. “The job of those involved with this programme is to bring out the best in every kid whose lives we touch.”
The scheme is supported by the Youth Sports Trust and Sky and is offered free of charge to schools who apply themselves to be included on the programme. A pilot scheme involving nine schools across Leinster was undertaken earlier this year and Eamonn Gaffney, Principal of St. Peter’s College in Dunboyne, who participated in that pilot said “Our staff could see the positive impact of the programme on students’ enthusiasm for school. There was a tangible improvement in the self-esteem of many of the students. The Mentor visits were both inspiring for the students and helpful for the teachers in shaping the Sky Sports Living for Sport project”.
Darren Campbell, David Beckham and Jessica Ennis are the high calibre of ambassadors that Taylor will be working alongside and the ‘stardust’ that Sky brings to the project can certainly provide some clear attraction to engaging with students, parents, schools and communities.
The Department of transport, Tourism and Sport set out a clear ambition at the start of this year to make progress on improving the rola and status of sport within the education system and while Sky’s programme runs independently of the Department of Education it will help make school life more relevant and appealing to students.
Some concerns were expressed at its potentially taking the place of the successful School Completion Programme which has run across hundreds of schools since 2002 and which engages with a broader range of activities and supports than just sport.
Funding for this has been reduced over the past three years though and the ability of a commercial partner to step into the breach can only be for good, providing it does not lead to the withering of what is a very beneficial programme.
The benefit of bringing commercial partners into sport and education is to strengthen not replace existing structures.
“This launch offers another clear signal of Sky Ireland’s commitment to the market,” said Sky Ireland MD JD Buckley at the launch. “It is important that we continue to play a positive part in communities across the country and, through the power of sport and leading sports professional, such as Katie Taylor, we look forward to helping students in secondary schools throughout Ireland improve their lives.”
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