Successful holiday activity sessions run by the Guernsey Sports Commission could face changes this year. New locations and a price increase are among changes under consideration.
The On Your Marks scheme has given thousands of children opportunities to try a wide variety of sports with most sessions held at Beau Sejour or the Grammar School. There were plans last year to use La Houguette Primary School as another base to encourage involvement from children living in the west of the island. But covid put a stop to that when the February half term sessions were cancelled as the island entered its second lockdown.
Pictured: The On Your Marks scheme runs during some school holidays, usually including February, Easter, May and October as well as part of the summer holidays. Sessions are planned for the half term holiday next month, covid permitting.
Although sessions were able to resume at Easter last year, there was not enough time to plan activities to go ahead at La Houguette or the main base at the Grammar School. By the summer, plans were progressed to use St. Sampson’s High School as a venue in the north of the island with buses from Beau Sejour and La Houguette weekly to help families with transport issues and encourage more children to take part.
At St. Sampson’s High School, climbing and swimming were introduced as new activities alongside sports familiar to the On Your Marks scheme - football, netball, dodgeball and cricket.
Pictured: The climbing wall at St Sampson's High School was used by the Guernsey Sports Commission during the 2021 summer school holidays. It has previously been used for charitable events such as the Everest Challenge, which raises funds for activities at Le Murier school.
In its annual report, the Guernsey Sports Commission said it was disappointing that minibuses laid on from Beau Sejour and La Houguette to the Grammar School and St Sampson's High School were used less than had been hoped. Seven children used the service, which allowed them to take part in On Your Marks when lack of private transport might otherwise have kept them away.
This year, the Commission aims to encourage more families to use the minibuses to allow more children from all backgrounds to become involved in the various sports and activities offered.
Pictured: The Guernsey Sports Commission might use La Houguette Primary School in the future as it tries to find ways of ensuring that children in every part of the island have reasonably easy access to the On Your Marks sessions.
The overall number of children taking part in 2021 declined, mainly as a result of the pandemic. In total, nearly 550 children between Reception age and Year 11 took part in at least one On Your Marks session compared to 670 during 2020. Among the children who signed up in 2021 were 115 who were given help to participate because cost would otherwise have been a barrier to them attending.
The Commission said the ethos of On Your Marks is “to provide all school-aged children from Reception to Year 11 the opportunity to engage in a variety of fun, physical and sporting activities during the school holidays, delivered in a safe and inclusive environment”.
As costs are known to be a barrier to some children participating, another aim for 2022 is to use greater discretion for families who might be put off by the price charged for sessions.
On Your Marks is funded by the Commission along with a significant donation from the charity Help a Guernsey Child.
Each session currently costs £1 per hour. A price rise may be necessary during 2022 in response to the increasing costs of providing sessions, but the Commission is also looking for further sponsorship to help those families who might otherwise keep their children away because of costs.
Pictured: Jeremy Frith, Performance Director of the Guernsey Sports Commission, speaking at a ball held by the Lord's Taverners and the Ray Lowe Sporting Foundation which raised money for the Commission. Other charities, including Help A Guernsey Child, also contribute funds to the Commission's activities.
The 2021 annual report makes it clear that removing barriers to participation is one of the Commission's main aims as it plans the On Your Marks programme for this year’s school holidays.
“The need to make On Your Marks accessible to all, either by using school buses to get the children to a main venue or by creating several venues across the island in their local communities, will be a focus," said the Commission.
"Further investment in staff recruitment and retention will also be required to help fulfil this and will also enable the Commission to utilise the facilities that we have at our disposal, such as the climbing wall and swimming pool.
"This investment in staff will help us create a pool of people with a variety of experience and skills and offer a pathway for young sports leaders to get into the industry.
"One further aim for the coming year will be to improve the sustainability of the programme. We will need to explore the possibility of an increase in price in conjunction with seeking further sponsorship.”
Pictured: The On Your Marks scheme allows children to take part in different sports for just £1 per hour during many school holidays.
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