According to a study undertaken at the University of Edinburgh, pupils excluded from school by the time they reach their teenage years are four times as likely as other children to be jailed as adults. Boys, those from single parent families, and those from the poorest communities are most likely to be excluded from school.

A prison placement for one young offender can cost the tax payer over £64,000 per year. Aside from the benefits which physical activity can provide, sport can also provide positive role models, a safe space, and a chance for young people to choose a positive future.

Now successfully in its second year, London Youth Rowing’s Pupil Referral Unit programme has coached over 20 students to row on the water at the Royal Docks Adventure. Students from New Regent’s College have been excellent representatives of their school, accessing sessions in small groups with the support of their teachers and funding received from the Worshipful Company of Vintners. Out of the students we have worked with, 5 students have returned to mainstream education, and all other students are in education or training. Hear from Joseph (below) who learned to row with LYR, and has just been reintroduced into mainstream schooling. 


Rowing hasn’t been the only exciting opportunity available to the group, as students have represented their school at a national event, heard from inspirational speakers and even had a work experience afternoon aboard a P2000 with the Royal Navy

Sessions run in small groups, enabling coaches to encourage positive behaviour and to look at the development of the student holistically, working 1:1 where required.

One of the students, David, has learnt to row through the following stages: on rowing machines, the indoor rowing tank, lake boats and recreational singles. When asked about the skills he’s developing through rowing, David listed concentration as the skill he has most improved upon.

David said:

‘When you’re on the water, you have to concentrate. I concentrate in lessons more now. You see the importance of following instructions. You follow them and it’s easier. If you’re not following instructions, you get wet.’

He also said he would recommend rowing to people because ‘they can learn skills and build their confidence.’  


Above: David out on the water at the Royal Docks Adventure.

LYR provides access to Monday after-school clubs for the students and encourages them to make their way to the docks for an open session, with young people from other schools there too. For students excluded from mainstream education this will be a huge achievement, and they will be encouraged to work well in a team, monitor their own behaviour, communicate positively and progress in their rowing. It also means that they can keep active and engaged in LYR activity, no matter which school they move on to.

John McAvoy is a reformed criminal, who took up rowing as an alternate outlet to crime. Here’s what John McAvoy had to say about LYR’s work:

'You’re engaging with some of the most disadvantaged young people in the country, providing sport which they wouldn’t have had access to and positive role models. Sports are a great way to break down so many barriers. They’re a proven impact on increasing academic learning and, most importantly, the young people you’re working with get to have a childhood.'

Find out more information about sport’s effectiveness in preventing criminal behaviour and rehabilitating offenders, here