The last time I wrote a blog here I pointed out that Chiswick was well placed on its path to a strong recovery from the pandemic because the leadership was coming from the community rather than the administration at Hounslow Council.
I highlighted as an example, the fact that Chiswick was now a host to three Sunday Markets each month. We’ve recently had another successful Flower Market last week. The Antique Market is taking place this Sunday and of course the Cheese market on the 18th July. People have been flocking to the High Road in record numbers to sample the delights of the markets and subsequent footfall has brought much needed weekend business to our retailers.
Moreover, these community led initiatives are great opportunities to meet and socialise after so many months under lockdown. We all have our fingers crossed in the hope that this weekend might turn out to be a memorable sporting occasion. So after the Antiques Market, I will be back glued to my television cheering on Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and the rest of the England team urging them to ‘bring it home.’ If you ever needed any confirmation of the transformative power of sports, then this will be it. The virtues of hope and the weight of expectation will be unimaginable, even to someone like me who witnessed 1996. The power of sports is extraordinary. It can engage you on so many levels including as a participant, spectator, coach and referee. That’s why I believe that sports, more specifically school sports is crucial. The space for a community led recovery through sports for young people has started to take shape. I will be outlining below how one organisation in Chiswick is already taking the lead.
I’ve kept regular contact with the team at Rocks Lane throughout the pandemic sharing best practice for delivering coaching sessions in a Covid-19 secure way. As coaches/teachers we share the view that sports where children develop in their physical, social and emotional wellbeing. Sports can also help develop other important life skills such as teamwork, perseverance and leadership.
A child’s positive association with sports and physical activity can build confidence and help break through social-economic and cultural barriers. This can translate to child’s opportunity to have new experiences, make new friends and learn about the other important personal qualities such as respect, teamwork and fair play. These trait are the corner stones for any strong community.
Physiologically I have a genuine fear that the physical literacy of our young pupils has fallen behind as result of the pandemic. I am in no doubt that some of the basic components of fitness that we teach in early years such as coordination, flexibility, speed and endurance have been affected by the disruption.
Rocks Lane has truly lived up to its name as a ‘Rock’ in our community providing multi sports activities to hundreds of children and adults on its site each week. They have been operating for the past 16 years providing tennis, 5-a-side, netball and hockey all year round. During the lockdown, the management team led by Barry Murray and Chris Warren were working tirelessly behind the scenes to offer some limited services in keeping with the Covid-19 regulations and to prepare for the full reopening.
Responding to our call for a Community Led Recovery, Rocks Lane have announced an initiative that enables all state schools in Hounslow to use their facilities for free. Rocks Lane will have coaches on hand to take sessions and assist teachers with large groups of children. There will also be opportunities for children visiting the site to learn new sports. They has recently added 6 Padel tennis courts to the site and is now the largest Padel tennis centre in the UK.
I will be urging Head Teachers and schools to follow up on this offer by writing to them in the coming weeks. The timings couldn’t be better. Last month the Department for Education confirmed that it had extend the PE and Sports premium to July 2022. The PE and Sports premium was first introduced by the Conservative Government in coalition to improve the quality of teaching of PE and Sport in our primary school. This would ensure that our pupils would have positive experience and association with sports and form the early foundation for our children to lead activity and health lifestyle.
The department for Education pledged a further £320 million investment towards the PE and Sport Premium to encourage more children to return to sports and physical activities after lockdown. The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson MP has given primary schools greater spending flexibility by announcing that he would allow schools to carry forward any unspent grants that would otherwise had been ring-fenced for an academic cycle.
Primary schools will now have more resources available to them as they continue to improve the quality of their sports and physical activities programme. Lessons must be robust enough to challenge the higher ability pupils on the one hand, while being able to be differentiated enough to engage with the lesser ability pupils.
As we recover, I want to evoke Edmund Burke and encourage more ‘little platoons’ such as Rocks Lane to continue to come forward and add to the mediatory institutions that will help to accelerate our return to normality.
As illustrated above, there will always be space for Government intervention in a crisis. But as a Conservative, I believe strongly that we must move away from the assumption that Government must be the sole operator on our path to recovery. Community initiative such as those provided by Rocks Lane must be central. As we go into the Local Elections next year, we will be arguing for more powers to be given back to our communities. The community response to the pandemic was overwhelming. We must build on this with every aspect our lives but more crucially, where the health, education and wellbeing of our children is concerned.
Cllr Ron Mushiso