Dramatically increasing tennis participation in a state secondary school

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School of Tennis at King Alfred’s Academy, Wantage

The School of Tennis programme was developed by the Tennis Foundation (now part of the LTA) with the aim to change radically the way in which tennis is delivered in secondary schools across Great Britain.

At King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage, a state secondary with 1800 pupils aged 11 to 18, the School of Tennis programme was introduced with financial support from Tennis Oxfordshire. It is a three year programme which began in March 2018 and focuses on four key themes: teaching and learning, student leadership, facilities and equipment and community links.

Prior to the introduction of the School of Tennis programme in 2018, King Alfred’s had about 70 children playing tennis, predominantly boys. In Year 2 of the programme, this number has increased to over 1000 with 730 completing six or more lessons with slightly more girls playing than boys. There have been 56 pupils taking part in school tennis competitions.

In respect of student leadership, there are eight tennis ambassadors who have been trained on how to help run lunchtime tennis activities and promoting tennis at King Alfred’s. About 40 tennis leaders have also been trained to support the work of the tennis ambassadors in delivering tennis sessions within King Alfred’s.

When it comes to facilities and equipment, Tennis Oxfordshire’s funding has helped with the purchase of red, orange, green and yellow balls, mini tennis nets and audio speakers for cardio tennis.

Strong community links have been established with Wantage Tennis Club, under its Head Coach Andy Aitken, with the Club’s facilities used to help deliver lessons. Andy leads the delivery of tennis teaching to all members of King Alfred’s PE Department and works closely with Sean McCullough, a PE teacher, in training the tennis ambassadors and leaders. As a result of the programme, Sean is starting his LTA level 2 accreditation course in November 2019 to ensure the project is sustainable.

In July 2019, to coincide with the Wimbledon tournament, Wantage Tennis Club provided two free courts after school for any pupils from King Alfred’s, including the provision of rackets and balls; over 50 pupils and 30 staff played. The club also kindly offered a free racket to any King Alfred’s pupils taking up its junior membership.

King Alfred’s is excited about the start of term in September 2019 and the opportunity it brings to further increase the number of children playing tennis in Oxfordshire.