Leaders celebrate first year of School Gates Groups


Two School Gates running groups in South Gloucestershire recently celebrated their one year anniversary of morning running sessions.

Elm Park Primary School in Winterbourne, and Barrs Court Primary School in Cadbury Heath were the first schools in the county to pilot School Gates running and have gone from strength to strength ever since.

The running groups were initiated as a result of a partnership between South Gloucestershire Council and England Athletics who provided funding for several groups to be initiated. The aim of the project is to provide an opportunity for parents to participate in social and fun exercise straight after the school drop off, it’s as simple as that!

Elm Park and Barrs Court schools got involved after responding to an advert in May 2015 from South Gloucestershire Council’s Active Lifestyles Manager, Brian Gardner who was overseeing the project. Following discussions with the Head Teachers and potential volunteer run leaders, Brian set up taster sessions at both schools which proved popular.

A qualified Leader in Running Fitness got the group at Elm Park established for the first 8 weeks whilst the volunteer run leader, Cathie Walsh attended the Leadership in Running Fitness course to sustain the group afterwards. At Barrs Court however, a parent who was already a qualified leader offered to lead the group from the get go and has done ever since!

Winter running in Barrs Court park

Since then, both groups have grown with between 8 to15 parents attending regularly and enjoying the variety of the sessions. For many, these groups were an opportunity to start running in a safe, friendly and sociable environment and have been a stepping stone in to a wider running circle. The parents are now confident in participating in local parkruns, races and some have gone on to join their local running clubs such as Frampton Cotterell Harriers. At Elm Park, the group has also been actively involved in promoting physical activity and inspiring the children and other parents at the school to take part in the Sport Relief Mile with 55 parents completing the challenge!

Cathie said "Five of my Mums have signed up for the Watermore 10k which is FAB news and our Sports Coordinator is extremely pleased with this development in our home/school links.  The group was very active in inspiring the children (and other parents!) at our recent Sports Relief Mile event."

The Elm Park Sports Coordinator, Mrs Jess Anderson has really seen the benefit to the school and wider community for having the running group.  Jess said: "Cathie Walsh has been running a School Gate Running Group at Elm Park Primary School for the past year.  It has gone from strength to strength and allowed parents of our pupils to become an active part of our school sporting community.  The adults have been able to develop as runners in a fully supportive, encouraging and fun environment led by Cathie.  The running club has also played a large part in a Sports Relief fundraiser, where they started a 'Run a Mile' day for our children, staff and parents.  The school gate running club is a hugely positive asset to our school and I am proud we are part of it.  I look forward to seeing it grow and continue to develop in the future."

Both Cathie and Vickie have been on their own journeys leading the groups with the support of Brian Gardner and have achieved a great deal in their first year. Hearing the positive feedback from the runners and their achievements really inspires them to keep leading and getting more people in to running!  Here's to many more years of School Gates running at Barrs Court and Elm Park!

Here’s how Vickie got involved with leading at Barrs Court School Gates group:"I was asked to start the group by the PE lead at Barrs Court Primary School as although I no longer had children at the school I am still one of their governors and he is aware of my interest in sport and running.  Our first session was scheduled for 17th June last year which Helen came to and helped run it. I can honestly say it took me a while to get my head round the concept of running sessions against out and back runs but I am a definite convert now and these type of sessions worked in my favour as I have had injuries since December, it is easy to bully runners up and down hills!"

She continued, "I regularly get comments of how much harder the sessions feel than out and back runs and things like 'I really notice a difference to my running/fitness now I have been doing this'. It is only a small group, but we are a friendly bunch. One of my runners completed the Bristol to Bath Marathon last year, two other runners completed Bath Half and another completed Plymouth Half this year and I am running my forth Bristol 10k." 

"One of the best compliments I've had was in fact today; one of my runners has boys that play football and her youngest will be playing 11-a-side for the first time next season and she asked my advice on whether hill sprints and the stuff we do in our sessions would help keep their fitness up over the summer as she said she has learned so much from me that she wanted to pass it on! Maybe I'm in the wrong job!"

Elm Park School Gates group - Sport Relief Mile

If you’re interesting in having a School Gates Running group at your school, becoming a leader or would like to find out more, contact Run! City Activator, Helen Newberry at hnewberry@englandathletics.org

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