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RYA welcomes recent government announcement recognising importance of character-building activities

by Becky Gilbert-Wood 11 Feb 20:07 GMT
RYA OnBoard © RYA

Education Secretary, Damian Hinds recently announced his vision to help children build character and resilience.

Speaking at the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership conference on 7 February, Mr Hinds spoke of the importance of character-building activities in helping young people succeed in life and even improve academic outcomes.

The Department for Education (DfE) has pledged to work with schools and external organisations, including membership bodies, to enable children from all backgrounds to access activities to develop confidence and underpin success in education and work.

For many years we have known that sport and physical activity have a beneficial effect on our physical health and well-being. However, work done by the RYA and Professor Bill Lucas, Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning and Professor of Learning at the University of Winchester demonstrates a number of important additional benefits.

The landmark project combined academic findings on the role character has to play in shaping young people's life chances, with the life skills that can be developed through sailing. With Prof. Lucas concluding that sailing nurtures six key strengths; creativity, confidence, teamwork, communication, determination, and independence.

He said: "I'm struck by how much of a child's life in school can be focused on exams, and how much more needs to focus on the other things that help them to do really well in life, including resilience and learning to work with others.

"If you do those things better, exam results get better and people who have these attributes get on better in life. They are much happier and adaptable to embrace challenges."

The RYA's OnBoard programme can help to cultivate these capabilities in young people and encourages individuals to have a growth mind-set. Children who get out on-the-water know how to face challenges, become more resilient and see life as an opportunity.

Prof. Lucas continued: "All the evidence says for a young person to flourish in the 21st century, the character attributes they need are on that list. It is no longer a question as to whether these things are important, it is now all about how you do it.

"Sailing can provide an answer to that 'how', whilst also providing numerous other benefits like having fun with friends and family, being active and getting outdoors."

Of the recent DfE announcement, Professor Bill Lucas commented: "It's very encouraging to see the Department for Education actively embracing the contribution of informal activities like sailing to building character, along with the importance of creativity".

Get OnBoard

RYA OnBoard was relaunched in 2017 with a new focus on the broader learning benefits of sailing and windsurfing. It is open to anyone aged 8-18 and offers the opportunity to try out sailing and windsurfing in a safe, structured and fun environment.

Sessions are delivered through a network of clubs and centres across the UK, many of which are partnered with local schools. In its 13 years, OnBoard has introduced more than 900,000 youngsters to sailing and windsurfing.

RYA Director of Sport Development Alistair Dickson explains: "OnBoard is crucial in providing the foundation for the future of our sport and enables us to share the real value of sailing with new audiences, who may not have considered it as an activity before.

"We look forward to inspiring even more youngsters of all ages and backgrounds to get out on the water and discover what sailing can offer them."

For more information about how to get involved in sailing visit

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