ANYONE for tennis as the first ball is struck at Wimbledon today!
The answer’s a resounding yes at Newsome Sports College.
Principal Paul Gittins – himself a PE teacher and a keen tennis player – has set up a thriving tennis academy offering scholarships to exceptional and talented students.
The college employs a tennis coach, Tim Jenkins, and from a standing start two years ago now has 24 students in years 7, 8 and 9 working to develop their tennis ability at no extra cost to them or their parents or carers.
Alongside the scholarship students, each student at the college has the chance to learn how to play – with lunchtime and after-school sessions.
And the college courts are set to be in big demand – as British number one Andy Murray bids to lift his first Wimbledon title after just missing out last year.
Mr Gittins said: “When I inherited the school, aspiration was not a word often used. Today we have a school where it is the norm, where staff and students expect to be better than they can be.
“As a tennis player myself I spotted an opportunity to create something very special here at Newsome and it is now thriving.
“Tennis has become our flagship sport and has had an extremely positive impact on the school’s reputation.
“This I believe is exceptional in a school where 30% of students come from homes in areas categorised as in high deprivation.
“Indeed, two of our teams qualified for the regional finals last year competing against young people from schools with access to clubs and coaches outside the school system.”
Newsome has been supported through the Aegon Schools Tennis programme delivered by the Tennis Foundation in partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association.
The programme provides free teacher training, resources and equipment to schools and has now supported more than 16,000 schools across Great Britain.
Mr Jenkins added: “I can safely say this is the best coaching job I have ever had – an endless stream of enthusiastic juniors, hungry to learn a new skill and commit to extra coaching provided free at the point of delivery.
“We are now seeing the fruits of our labours – with one of our students already gaining a tennis scholarships at university and parents telling me that the tennis was one of the reasons they chose our school.
“We really do run a genuinely fully inclusive programme that gives everyone a chance to say in the future ‘I learned to play tennis at school’.
Paul Williams, schools tennis manger at the Tennis Foundation, said: “Newsome is a great example of a school using tennis as a catalyst for whole school improvement.
“Every pupil gets the opportunity to play tennis, the best are given a chance to develop their talents while others can develop their off-court skills by organising and leading activities for younger pupils.”