Why we're supporting Unlocking Potential

by Geoff Newton, Executive Director to the Tennis Foundation

The Tennis Foundation is Great Britain’s leading tennis charity and exists quite simply to make the game more inclusive and accessible to every kind of community.

We do this by providing opportunities for people to grow and develop through tennis – whether they’re disabled people, the most disadvantaged in society or young people in education.

We have long held the belief that high quality PE and school sport is an important end in itself to keep young people healthy but it’s also a powerful vehicle to develop the skills and confidence needed to achieve both at school and in later life. For example, through our award-winning schools programme we have now supported more than 19,000 schools, trained more than 37,000 teachers and provided a fun, inclusive and accessible tennis experience to in excess of 2.6million children.

That’s why we fully support the Youth Sport Trust’s ‘Unlocking Potential: A Manifesto for PE and School Sport’.

All of us know there needs to be better initial training in PE for teachers.

And, whilst the Government’s investment in the Primary School Sport Funding has been welcome, more needs to be done to upskill non-specialist primary school teachers and to ensure head teachers recognise the benefits of PE, as well as give the subject the necessary curriculum time it deserves.

Tennis Foundation Trustee Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson, has led the way in Wales calling for PE to be made a core subject in all Welsh schools, with all teachers required to demonstrate proficiency in PE as part of their training. Elevating the importance of the subject in all Home Nations would be a welcome step.

School sport can often be a young person’s first ever competitive experience but equally might just be the pinnacle of their sporting career. There are now far more opportunities for young people not only to play but lead, coach and officiate in school sport with all the opportunities these experiences provide. Whatever party – or parties – find themselves in power post-the General Election in May, they must continue to ensure these opportunities are there for all young people.

At the Tennis Foundation, we work closely with the Youth Sport Trust, and many other local, regional and national organisations, to deliver schools tennis competitions for young people of all ages and abilities.

Over 60,000 pupils take part in schools tennis competitions every year and we’ve seen sustained growth in our Year 3&4 Mini Tennis Red competition as part of the School Games, as well as our Team Tennis School series of events for secondary school pupils and college students. We have ambitious plans over the coming years to grow this to 100,000 pupils, through introducing a new mini tennis competition for Year 5&6 pupils, as well as more informal Touch Tennis competitions for secondary pupils.

Tennis is a sport that’s changing – it’s becoming more accessible, more inclusive and more relevant to people from all communities – and we will continue to work in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust to champion the power of sport to change lives.