Thanks to funding from South Western Railway, Dame Kelly Holmes Trust were recently able to deliver Get on Track for Employability programmes to students at two schools in the south of the country. 67 students from Park Community School in Portsmouth and Woodlands Community College in Southampton worked alongside our world class athlete mentors to learn and develop new skills to help prepare them for employment.  

Both schools are in areas of high deprivation, with the students lacking aspirations or suitable role models to help them think about their future according to their teachers. This was the first time we have delivered our Get on Track programme to a younger age group and our athlete mentors highlighted how beneficial they felt it was to work in a more in-depth way with students at a crucial earlier time in their lives. Across the programmes, the students worked with Paralympic swimming champion Liz Johnson, Olympic sailing champion Sarah Ayton and British boxing champion Hannah Beharry

One of the key things our athletes needed to do was create an environment that allowed the students to start thinking about life beyond school. Funding from SWR allowed the students of both schools 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. Everyone involved saw these days a real highlight and teachers and athlete mentors saw a real change in the students attitudes and behaviour after these sessions. You can hear about what the students and athlete mentor Lz Johnson thought about the sailing day and the whole programme in the short film below.

The results from both programmes have been really encouraging. On the first programme at Park Community, wellbeing on a nationally recognised scale increased by 3% as well as seeing a 5% rise in self efficacy. At Woodlands in Southampton, the students showed a 12% increase in confidence about moving into Employment, Education or Training in the future as a result of working with our athlete mentors. Statistics are important, but feedback from the students also provides evidence of how much impact the programmes had:

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

It has been amazing working with world class athletes. I have learnt so much, such as my leadership skills and opportunities I might not have had without the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust project.  Overall I think it was an amazing experience.

From the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust programme I have gained leadership skills, confidence and skills for life that I believe will help me in the future. I have also grown stronger bonds with my classmates during these sessions as a result of the activities.

You can read more about Tahlia from Park Community School and what she learned on the programme here.


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

It's been amazing for our students to work with high level athletes. For them to see someone who has achieved so much is brilliant, to see what goes into it, the commitment they had, the struggles they had along the way. They bring the opportunity for kids to do things that aren’t part of normal curriculum like team building, team work and gaining resilience in life.

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 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.

These Get on Track for Employability programmes were funded by South Western Railway as part of the Customer and Communities Improvement Fund. 67 students benefitted across two schools, one at Park Community School in Havant and the second at Woodlands Community College in Southampton. Everyone at Dame Kelly Holmes Trust would like to say a big thank you to SWR for the funding.