Social, health, sports & citizenship lessons passed on to future generations

The RESPECT Programme, a community outreach initiative in South Yorkshire run by professional basketball club Sheffield Sharks, is celebrating its 10th anniversary of delivering proactive sports, social and citizenship workshops to primary school children.

This important milestone year of the not-for-profit scheme is supported by diagnostic imaging company Canon Medical Systems UK, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility #madeforlife commitments. The 2018/19 RESPECT scheme is currently seeing over 600 Year 5 and 6 primary school children via workshops on bullying, staying safe online, fire safety and basketball skills. The academic year will conclude with a celebratory basketball tournament between participating schools in June at the English Institute of Sport Sheffield.

Over the past ten years, the RESPECT programme has grown in scale, interacting with nearly 5,000 nine and ten year old pupils at schools in the disadvantaged South Yorkshire areas of Barnsley, Rotherham and Sheffield. Participating schools gain external support and resource sessions in the non-statutory curriculum area of Personal, Social, Health and Citizen Education (PSHCE) combined with practical sports coaching and role model psychology from Sheffield Sharks professional basketball players.

“The Year 5 children love it when Sheffield Sharks come to visit – they engage, listen and want to take part – who wouldn’t when a 7ft tall professional basketball player comes into the room!” states Mandy Fenech, Safeguarding Officer at Arbourthorne Community Primary School. “The Sheffield Sharks RESPECT programme has been so important to our school over many years. It complements our own PSHE curriculum and safeguarding topics perfectly, covering bullying, online safety, crime plus fire and safety. Delivery of the sessions is unique and our pre-teen pupils sit up and take notice – you can see their interest and engagement rise during the sessions.”

“The ethos of the RESPECT programme is to encourage participation in physical activity such as basketball; to promote an understanding of the need for community values; and to help young people stay safe using technology such as the Internet,” states Joel Mills, Operations Manager and RESPECT Programme Leader at DBL Sharks Sheffield Basketball Club. “The sessions are run with Year 5 primary school children, the age that criminal responsibility starts, and aims to openly discuss making the right choices in life.”

“The RESPECT programme delivered by Sheffield Sharks is about striving for the greater good. It mirrors our own Japanese business culture and the philosophy behind our long-standing ‘Made for Life’ vision of building relationships that rely on trust, respect and transparency to improve life for all,” states Mark Hitchman, Managing Director of Canon Medical Systems UK. “We are proud to see the positive impacts that the RESPECT scheme is having on local children, families and the wider community.”

Sheffield Sharks players and RESPECT leaders are mostly from black or minority ethnic groups and have real-life stories to tell of growing up in challenging circumstances and how choosing a path of sport enabled them to gain skills and stay trouble free. South Yorkshire Police and Fire & Rescue Service also play a part with the RESPECT programme in addressing the wide range of issues that impact local communities, not least in educating the children that the criminal age of responsibility is from age 10.

Mandy Fenech concludes, “Almost 70% of our pupils are entitled to free school meals and some of our families face many hardships. We give the children a routine and safe environment to belong to and our Core Values are echoed through the RESPECT programme. Giving our pupils proactive guidance in life is incredibly important and we’re so thankful, as parents and teachers, to have the support of Sheffield Sharks and the RESPECT programme in our area.”

Due to the success of the RESPECT programme with primary school children, plans for RESPECT2 a programme targeting secondary schools and encouraging teenagers to stay out of gangs and knife crime is under development and due to be piloted in 2020.