Pupils’ academic success can be improved through sports based mentoring in schools

  • New NHS England-supported research from Loughborough University suggests that engagement with Greenhouse Sports’ school-based sport programmes improves pupils’ core life skills and combats physical and mental health issues


  • Greenhouse Sports’ programme participants surveyed in research significantly outperform their peers in English and Maths


  • Study finds that sport helps to increase attendance rates, with an average increase of eight days per year for participants, compared to those who do not participate



Greenhouse Sports’ intensive school-based sports programmes achieve positive behavioural change, reduce absenteeism and raise academic performance for pupils between the ages of 11 and 16, in some of London’s most deprived areas, according to a study released by Loughborough University.


Independently reviewed by volunteering charity Pro Bono Economics and supported by the NHS, the study assessed the impact of the Greenhouse Sports model - established for a minimum of three years in each school - on the attendance, behaviour and academic attainment of over 700 participating pupils at four inner-city London schools.


Image removed.


As well as looking at the individual impact, the research also assessed the effect that structured sports programmes from Greenhouse Sports - which includes basketball, tennis and table tennis - has on the wider culture of the four participating schools.


This data, which duly included control groups (pupils who had not engaged with Greenhouse Sports programmes) was combined with the findings of 20 qualitative interviews, which gathered the views of head teachers, heads of PE, Greenhouse Sports’ full-time coaches and participating pupils. The research assessed whether participating pupils were gaining the Social, Thinking, Emotional and Physical (STEP) skills to improve core skills, including resilience, team-building, persistence and time management.


The pupils enrolled in Greenhouse Sports programmes often had histories of poor attendance and academic attainment and in some instances were on the cusp of being excluded. The researchers at Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences found that, when compared to the London average, pupils on the Greenhouse Sports programmes are twice more likely to meet or exceed the 60 minutes of exercise a day recommended by Government.  


In addition, an average of 36% of Greenhouse Sports pupils do 60 minutes of exercise a day, compared to just 16% of young people living in London who meet these recommended hours of physical activity.


The researchers also found a very strong link between participants’ increased school attendance and a rise in academic attainment. In one school, the programme consistently raised attainment, with Greenhouse Sports pupils outperforming their peers by a third of a grade in English and 40% of a grade in Maths.


Participating pupils became strongly motivated by Greenhouse Sports’ programmes, which are delivered by highly-trained full-time sports coaches who also act as personal mentors. As a consequence, the participating pupils attended between 3.5 days and 10 more days of school a year than their peers in control groups. In one school, pupils who regularly participated in Greenhouse Sports’ programmes, which are mainly delivered outside the school curriculum, consistently attended, on average, a week’s more school per year than their non-Greenhouse peers.


The research thus suggests that Greenhouse Sports’ model of embedding full-time sports coaches into schools can improve the opportunities afforded to London’s young people, as well as their overall physical and mental health and wellbeing.


Greenhouse Sports’ Chief Executive, John Herriman said: We believe working in partnerships with schools is the best way to engage young people with this type of sports intervention. A full-time Greenhouse Sports coach and mentor helps to create a safe, fun and challenging environment that enables young people to achieve their potential. We asked ourselves some challenging questions in this research by Loughborough University which was also externally reviewed by volunteering charity Pro Bono Economics. It provides unequivocal evidence of the positive impact of intensive sports coaching and mentoring on the lives of young people, and also supports our view that further high-quality research is needed to continue to inform policy in this area.” 


Loughborough University Faculty member and report author, Carolynne Mason added: “Robustly demonstrating the impact of sports-based intervention programmes on young people is extremely difficult. The scoping study enabled us to trial an approach in a small number of schools engaged with Greenhouse Sports. Despite initial scepticism about what it would be possible to demonstrate using pre-existing school data, the analysis revealed widespread evidence that meaningful engagement in the Greenhouse Sports programmes was associated with a range of positive outcomes for students when compared to students who did not participate. We are looking forward to the next stage of the research, which will examine whether these findings are replicated in a larger sample of schools.”


Dr Jacqueline Cornish OBE, National Clinical Director for Children, Young People and Transition to Adulthood at NHS England, said: “It is exciting to see this small-scale study, part funded by NHS England, show students’ academic success and personal well-being significantly improved by sport and exercise. This innovative programme has great potential for positive behavioural change for pupils in some of London’s most deprived areas, as well as clear benefits to their physical and mental health. There are many things to celebrate in the health and wellbeing of children and young people now, but we cannot afford to be complacent; as this study shows there is more we can do to improve our children’s health and life chances and help them transition to a safe and fulfilling young adult life while realising their full potential.”