Premiership Rugby has marked 10 years of its education and employability programme, HITZ, with a celebration attended by playing stars including Maggie Alphonsi, Ellis Genge and Ed Jackson at the BT Centre in London.
The rugby-based programme has engaged more than 13,000 participants over the past decade, supporting young people from challenging backgrounds, including those who have dropped out of mainstream education.
Every year, more than 2,000 14-18-year-olds across England are offered opportunities through the scheme to gain qualifications and work experience to help transition into full-time employment.
Graduates of the programme were among those honoured at the 2018 HITZ Awards, which featured a message from Tracey Crouch, minister for sport & civil society.
She said: “HITZ is an excellent, long-standing example of how sport can play a role in building character and resilience among young people who are at risk of failing at school or in society. I hope the project continues its long success.”
HITZ uses rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship in its programme.
More than 80% of participants find work or return to education after the scheme and more than 75% report improved confidence and resilience.
The programme passed a significant milestone when its 13,000th participant graduated last summer, making HITZ one of the longest running and most successful NEET-focussed sports projects in England.
Wayne Morris, community and CSR director at Premiership Rugby, commented: “HITZ is proof of the power of rugby to improve character, resilience and achievement in the classroom and the workplace.
“It is also an example of how head teachers and school governors could use sport strategically to support pupils at risk of disengaging with education and could build partnerships with the professional sports sector and enhance their PSHE provision.
“We have an ambitious goal to use our brands, players and assets to make a major contribution to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in our communities. That vision is called “A Plan to Improve A Million Lives”. We look forward to working with Government, charities and the private sector to help make that dream come true. Next year’s Rugby World Cup can be a huge boost to the sport and we are ready to maximise its impact.”
HITZ is delivered by Premiership Rugby’s 13-member rugby clubs with the help of its funders Land Rover, Wooden Spoon and Comic Relief.