A SECONDARY school has experienced a surge in pupils taking part in extra-curricular sport.
Learners at Ysgol Eirias in Colwyn Bay have engaged with football, rugby, basketball, dodgeball, badminton, hockey, volleyball, netball, and gymnastics sessions more than 5,000 times since September.
Cooking and Health and Wellbeing activities have also proven popular, ensuring learners pick up independent living skills such as how to plan, prepare and cook a meal.
It is hoped that providing these opportunities will have a knock-on effect for overall school attendances, a nationwide issue following the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Welsh Government statistics, prior to the pandemic overall absenteeism figures in Wales stood at 5.7%. Provisional data for the 2022/23 school year revealed that number had risen to 10.5% nationally.
Additionally, figures show persistent absence amongst pupils eligible for Free School Meals more than doubled from 8.4% of pupils in 2018/19 to 18.8% of pupils in 2022/23.
The positive news comes as Eirias celebrates national success, with its Year 10 rugby team and under-18’s football squad both reaching the last 16 of the Welsh Cup in their respective sports.
Assistant Headteacher Alex Metcalfe said the after-school sessions have led to children being on-site from the first bell of the day, which is “heartening” given the pressures they and their families have faced in recent times.
“To have this many pupils attend this many sessions in just a few months has been incredible and testament to our amazing teachers and the support we’ve had from parents, carers and the local community,” said Mr Metcalfe.
“We have a new system which can track who is attending, what session they are participating in, and we can align that with overall attendance, which has been a game changer.
“Attendance at extra-curricular activities has a direct impact on learners’ health and wellbeing, social and physical attributes and builds the relationship even more between staff and learners as they are interacting in a different setting.”
He added: “The more pupils we have taking part in sport not only provides opportunities for all, it gives us an even wider selection of players to choose from when it comes to the teams that represent the school for competitive or recreational fixtures.
“An example is the success of our rugby and football squads, which are competing with the best schools in their age groups nationwide, an amazing achievement.”
Head of PE Neil Wilkinson hopes the upward trend at Ysgol Eirias continues and is confident it will, given the positive response from pupils, parents, and carers.
“Tracking attendances enables us to run a programme rewarding the higher attendees and those who have experienced a significant shift in their overall presence at school,” said Mr Wilkinson.
“Our main aim is to get as many learners physically active as often as possible which will hopefully lead to lifelong habits being formed to benefit not only they themselves but the community and future generations.
“As well as competitive fixtures and participation in after-school activities, we will be continuing to organise more recreational fixtures against schools in the area, giving learners the opportunity to compete against other pupils in their age groups.”
He added: “We have some very enthusiastic members of staff who have been delivering football sessions to children in our primary school clusters, which will be extended to rugby and a summer camp later this year.
“There are a lot of other plans in the pipeline – including fun matches between past and present students – so we encourage people to watch this space and thank everyone who has shown us so much support.”
For more information on extra-curricular activities at Ysgol Eirias, visit www.eirias.co.uk and follow the social media channel at @experienceeirias.