'Protect the Planet has empowered our students'

By Mark Orlovac 28 Jan 2024
Protect the Planet 2023, Rochdale

Find out how the Premier League's social action project has made an impact on one school in Rochdale

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For the last four years, Rochdale AFC Community Trust has used the Premier League Primary Stars programme to inspire children at Healey Primary School.

Not only has the programme helped to support children in the classroom, the playground and on the sports field, it has given them the confidence and skills to follow their passions and interests.

Over the last school year, Healey Primary students have been working with Rochdale AFC Community Trust to create their own social action project for the Protect the Planet programme, part of the Premier League's commitment to empowering young people to take positive action around climate change.

And they were able to display their ideas for helping the environment to other schools across the country at November's Protect the Planet celebration event at Liverpool's Anfield Stadium.

Here, Healey Primary Year 1 teacher & PE co-ordinator Becky Ogden Thomson explains what being part of PL Primary Stars and Protect the Planet has meant for her school.

"Rochdale were already in our school running different projects and when we were offered the chance to take part in this, we jumped at it.

"From when we had our first session, the children had all sorts of ideas and settled on single-use plastic and recycling. They created a plan of action and spoke with Rochdale Council about getting litter pickers so they could look after their local environment.

"A lot of research went into it and they shared the message at a whole-school assembly, with more than 200 children and teachers. They have done so well. The way they've articulated their ideas has been fantastic to see, you can see their own little passions coming into it.

"It's lovely that it's not just PE now, there's this link to a social action group. They love it. Now that they've all shared the ideas, everybody else wants to come!

"It's made them think about the local area as well as the links that it has to the wider environment.

"It's opened up that space for other children to try something new. They might not be into sports but we've linked them through sport in a different way. Now we are having those conversations that are really important as they go into adolescence.

"I've taught them from a younger age and so to hear the comments that they're making, that they're able to share their opinions and have the confidence to put them across to an adult, is fantastic to see.

"This has given them a sense of empowerment and confidence. Some of the children at our school haven't always had that. It's been good for them to learn about themselves, what beliefs they have and how to put those opinions forward in the right manner for them to be heard.

"I hope that from this they will want to run a similar project again. I'm sure there will be more children wanting to get involved, which is amazing. It’s about spreading the message.

"Being at Anfield, they can see the impact they've had from just one simple idea so now it's, 'What else can you achieve?'

"It's given them that motivation. They see children from the Youth Panel who are a bit older than them, who are still doing something similar. They might be inspired to be on stage like that next time and be an ambassador.

"With PL Primary Stars we've had maths interventions, reading interventions, we have PE and this year we've got girls football which is really exciting.

"Having free resources is important because otherwise it's our funding and that only goes so far for you to meet all the needs of all the children.

Protect the Planet 2023, Becky Ogden-Thomson, Rochdale

"The impact of PL Primary Stars on the school has been significant. The parents are seeing a different approach not just in PE, but we do different lessons too, like a mental health course we delivered just after COVID and supporting children in after-school and before-school clubs.

"And they go on to do things like Protect the Planet with all these other clubs. It's not just your little school, you're now at such a big event.

"Being at Anfield, I think it's hit home, 'Look at what we've done, we're a part of this.' It will live with them for a long time."

Launched in August 2022, and designed to reduce the barriers to participation in youth social action, the Protect the Planet Challenge increases young people's knowledge and understanding about environmental sustainability and empowers them to positively influence climate change action in their local communities.

More than 2,400 young people representing more than 90 professional football club community organisations from across England and Wales have taken part in the Challenge to date.

Also in this series

Part 1: Young people working for a greener world
Part 3: Hayden-Smith - Protect the Planet gives young people a voice
Part 4: Talha's story - Youth Panel gave me the opportunity to do big things

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