Pupils at an Oxfordshire state school are discovering the joys of rowing – thanks to a former world champion coach, a committed group of teachers and parents, and the gift of a boat from a generous benefactor.
While scores of independent schools offer rowing as a sport, only 12 state schools across the country have their own rowing clubs.
Cheney School in Oxford is one of them and in just two years it has won a clutch of indoor rowing titles.
The Cheney Falcon Rowing Club was launched in 2011. Around 40 pupils from years 7 to 13 signed up and now train with their coach, former world champion single sculler Peter Haining, up to three times a week.
Until recently though, they have either had to borrow boats or train on rowing machines in the school gym, because of a shortage of money to buy their own boat.
But when rowing enthusiast Nick Randall heard about the club’s plight, he offered to donate a £20,000 wooden boat. A shell eight, or octuple, it has now been fitted with new riggers and will be used for junior sculling training on Oxford’s River Isis.
“We are very fortunate to have been given a boat,” said Jolie Kirby, headteacher of the school. “We offer a wide range of enrichment activities here, from sport to debating, and the idea is to offer our students as many opportunities as possible.”
The rowing club was the idea of Cheney parent Zena Forster, a keen rower herself and now a volunteer coach. Her father, John Forster, acts as an assistant coach and mentor for Cheney Falcon and told SecEd that the young rowers are going from strength to strength.
“The pupils love being on the river and they have beaten lots of good crews already,” said Dr Forster. “Rowing is wonderful exercise and it’s had a big effect on their lives.”
For more details, visit www.cheneyfalcon.co.uk CAPTION: Oar-struck: The Cheney Falcon Rowing Club, one of only 12 state school clubs in the country, finally takes to the water in their very own rowing boat