Ringwood school and Bowls club come together to support pupil’s development

Date: 6 September 2021   Author: Energise Me

In Ringwood, a secondary school and bowls club have come together to help pupils build confidence and aid personal development all whilst playing Bowls. We spoke to the school and the club to find out more about the project.

How the programme started

In 2019, Ringwood Bowls club decided we wanted to approach a school to work with during the summer term. After two of our coaches trained to be safeguarding officers, the programme was launched. We would hold a one-hour session for school children once a week for 7 weeks in the summer term. We decided to let the school choose which pupils to send. They chose year 8, 12/13-year-olds.

The first group to take part were a group of four girls and two boys, all of whom were pupils with disabilities. Three of the pupils used wheelchairs, two had cerebral palsy and one had visual impairments.

For us, having the first group of pupils come along highlighted short fallings in our ability to cater for those living with disabilities. We hope to improve on this in future, with plans for a new clubhouse so we can be more inclusive.

For that first year, we had to get inventive. We got some rubber mats that go together like a jigsaw and some stools that were low to the ground to help the pupils be able to bowl but not tear up the green. We even took bells out of Christmas decorations to make the game accessible to those with visual impairments. Our members also donated money so we could purchase a smaller set of Bowls for the children to use.

It was great seeing the children find a love for the game. They were very keen and tried hard. It was so wonderful to see as they’d never really played sport before. They had never been considered capable or had an interest in sport so seeing them have an opportunity to come and do some real activity was great.

Young boy playing bowls



Unfortunately, for obvious reasons, we were unable to run the programme last year. But when the time came this year both us and the school were eager to make it happen. This year we’ve had six boys join us. They are all not able to or don’t want to take part in other sports. Although bowls can be competitive, I think it works for them as it’s only one on one or against yourself. There is less pressure.

We started with fun games like skittles or noughts and crosses before building up to the proper game. If you start with the full distance and can’t make it, it can be disheartening. So building it up helps the children grow their skills whilst remaining interested.

It’s been really great. We’ve seen the boys find a real joy in the sport. They’ve become more confident in front of adults and they play as well as the adults. Once we were told one of the boys wouldn’t be coming as he’d had a bad day at school, but he still turned up.

From our view, the children have grown in confidence, character and ability to put how they feel forward. At the end of six weeks, the children are still enthusiastic and they are still asking questions.

It lessens the generational divide a bit and the volunteers feel like they are making a real difference

How the programme has affected the bowls club

Before the programme, our club didn’t have a safeguarding officer but now we have two. Plus, one of them is now the safeguarding officer for the whole of the New Forest. Our coaching has been affected too. You have to change your expectations and cater for shorter attention spans. We designed fun games with skittles, hoops, giant tennis balls and even a big red dragon.  

The programme has been a positive experience for the whole club. We asked some members to volunteer as a passing thing for one session and they’ve been hooked ever since. They come every week because they want to. This is clear when they are on the green with the boys. They are so patient with them, they’ve persevered to this stage and now get to all play the game together.  

The bowlers are passionate about what they do and want to pass that on. They have the time to do so, which is great. For some of the volunteers it’s nice as they don’t normally get to interact with the younger generation very much. Now if the boys see them around town they say hello. It lessens the generational divide a bit and the volunteers feel like they are making a real difference.  

Bowls volunteer instructing the boys how to play


The school’s perspective

For the students, the programme has worked because it’s peaceful and quiet. There aren’t people everywhere and the children can see each other which means they are very relaxed. As they are being taught by the older generation it brings a great deal of respect and they listen to them. The guys at the club are fantastic, so calm.

The children come back every week as they know there’s nobody there to upset them or be rude or make fun of them. They aren’t children that would normally go to afterschool clubs. They couldn’t go to a rugby or football club as it would be too lively. This is a much calmer, more peaceful environment. They feel happy and safe here.

The boys have been working on their social skills at school and the club has helped with this. Their confidence has grown, and they’ve made new friendships. A few of them were friends before but they are all much closer now. They’ve built a real bond. If I see them around school, they are much chattier. They are excited and upbeat when they come to bowls.

They are now confident talking and navigating their way through conversations. If something upsets them or they are uncomfortable they can express this, where they would have struggled before.

Young boy playing bowls


Future plans

As a school, we know that Bowls is seasonal so we might try and find another activity the boys like for the winter months. They are keen to keep going with bowls. We’ve heard them talk about meeting after school or on Saturday’s and coming down to the bowls club to play.

Both the school and the club hope the programme can be a regular thing we do each year. As a club, we’d love to have a summer holidays team from the school. As well as an afterschool club for during term time.

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