Young people in Southampton get on track with support from elite and ex Paralympic athletes

Thursday 10th March 2022
  • South Western Railway (SWR) support ‘Get on Track’ programme in Southampton
  • Programme gives disadvantaged young people an opportunity to learn new skills
  • Elite and ex-Paralympic athletes provide mentoring and advice to participants

Young people in Southampton are receiving personal and professional mentoring and advice from elite and ex-Paralympic athletes, thanks to a partnership between The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, South Western Railway and Woodlands Community College in Harefield, Southampton.

The support from world class athletes is part of a programme called “Get on Track”, designed to enable local 14- and 15-year-olds facing disadvantage learn and develop new skills to prepare them for employment. The programme includes intensive personal and skills development training, career guidance, networking events and peer-led community action projects as well as activities which help team building skills. It is focused on building the “work ready” capabilities of participants, such as confidence, self-esteem and resilience.

Funding from SWR allowed the students to take part in a sailing day, taking them out of their comfort zones and giving them an opportunity to do something they’d never done before. The mentors reported a positive change in attitude after that.

Students taking part in the “Get on Track” programme have shown a 12% increase in confidence about moving into employment, education or training in future, and a 5% increase in self-efficacy and self-belief.

Veronika Krcalova, SWR’s Customer and Communities Improvement Fund Manager, added:

“There are many young people in local communities who, through no fault of their own, may not have the opportunity to develop the skills needed to enter the workplace. It’s wonderful that through our partnership with The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, the ‘Get on Track’ scheme offers these opportunities.

“One of the most important responsibilities we have at SWR is to connect people and communities both through operating train services and through supporting community-based initiatives like this.”

Sarah Ayton, Double Olympic Sailing Champion and athlete mentor said:

“Working with the students over the past six months has been challenging at times, but very rewarding. At the start, there was a lack of aspiration and motivation amongst the group, but we helped to create an environment that allowed them to start thinking about life beyond school.

“Half the challenge is creating that space for the students to think outside the box and instilling the belief that they can achieve what they want in life. They’ve gained some really valuable life skills and we’ve seen them gain confidence, put themselves forward and overcome fears; all crucial for working life. It’s been great to see them start to understand what motivates them and develop positive plans for life after school.”

Students who took part in the programme said:

The Dame Kelly Holmes project helped my learning in school because it made me feel good about myself and made me concentrate.  Reion (Y9)

Thank you for the opportunity for this. I have loved every bit of this.  Anybody that gets to be involved in this project is very lucky and it has taught me to work in teams. Sienna (Y9)

It was a great honour to work with world class athletes.  It has taught me leadership and I have made new friends.  It has been very useful to me.  Christian (Y9)

Neil Pearce - Lead Practitioner/ELT at Woodlands Community College said

“The programme has provided our pupils with opportunities they may otherwise not have had and to experience this with world class athletes has been amazing. The pupils have developed the ability to work together with those they may not otherwise have worked with and shown resilience and responsibility. It has allowed some to have leadership experiences that will stick with them for life.”

About Dame Kelly Holmes Trust

Dame Kelly Holmes Trust is a UK youth sports charity which supports 11-25 year-olds who are harder to engage in both education and in the community. It achieves this by training and developing world class athletes to deliver personal, social and emotional development programmes for young people facing disadvantage.  Through transformational mentoring, young people’s confidence, resilience and self-esteem increases which enables them to move into employment, become leaders within their communities, achieve in education and to improve their wellbeing through sport and physical activity.