The Port of London Authority (PLA) this week hosted nine students from St Angela’s Ursuline School in Newham on a trip on the Thames, kicking off a three-year partnership with the school as part of London Youth Rowing’s ‘Breaking Barriers’ campaign.

London Youth Rowing’s Breaking Barriers programme aims to enable motivated youth rowers from disadvantaged communities to flourish as they transition from school into the wider world. The PLA is providing four mentors to work with the nine girls from Year 10 (age 14/15). Together, over a 12-week period students and mentors will work together to develop work skills including time management, communication, teamwork, presentation skills and problem solving. 

The PLA is supporting Breaking Barriers as part of its Thames Vision programme, which has the broad goal of increasing river use and people’s connections with the Thames. It will provide each student with a week’s work placement to give them experience of working in an organisation focused on the Thames and to help prepare them for the world of work.

Thames Vision director, Katherine Riggs, explains:

'Our partnership with London Youth Rowing and their Breaking Barriers programme will give students, who perhaps have never been to the river before, the opportunity to develop their skills and gain an understanding of the exciting and varied careers on offer on the Thames too.  We see use of the river growing massively over the next twenty years and Thames operators need the best talented new recruits, from all backgrounds, to turn this Vision into reality.  We’re really excited to support the programme and our mentors are already greatly enjoying working with the students.'

The PLA mentors are working with youth rowers at weekly workshops aimed at: broadening aspirations; developing life skills; and providing future pathways through work experience, apprenticeship opportunities and links into further education.

London Youth Rowing’s chief executive, Matt Rostron, said:

'Since the successful Breaking Barriers pilot scheme in 2014/15, we’ve seen this project create a pathway to achieving goals for students in schools in Newham, Islingon, Tower Hamlets and Southwark.  Having the PLA as a partner for Breaking Barriers is ideal as through it we can provide students with a true staircase for talent, with the potential to take them from amateur rower to a career on the Thames.

St Angela’s Ursuline School head teacher, Mark Johnson commented:

'I’m so pleased that London Youth Rowing has afforded us the opportunity to partner with the PLA.  It’s great to have the mentors supporting the students’ development/  As our school is just four miles from the Thames, getting the students here thinking about the river is really important.  They all really enjoyed their first taste of river travel on the MBNA Thames Clipper this week – it was a great way to launch the partnership.