At Countryside, we recognise the value of helping to address the negative impact that the pandemic has had on the younger generation, which is why we are proud that Beaulieu, our flagship scheme with L&Q, is continuing its long-term sponsorship of Chelmsford School Sport Partnership (CSSP) - an ongoing programme of physical education and sport for young people, working with 60 schools across Chelmsford.
Having recently retired from her role as School Games Organiser (SGO) at CSSP after 18 years, we caught up with Sara Robson to celebrate the youth-centred events she has co-ordinated during her role.
How long have you lived in Essex?
I grew up in Essex and have pretty much lived here my whole life - apart from when I went to university. I knew I wanted to settle down and buy a home here as I know the area so well. I used to play hockey in Chelmsford and I have so many great memories here that I have never wanted to leave.
What do you like about the area?
Chelmsford has a great community and through my jobs I have met some fantastic people in the education sector, who are now close friends. I love being close to plenty of green space and being able to go on walks along the coast whilst remaining within easy access of the town centre and friendly local pubs.
How long have you worked with CSSP and how did you first get involved?
I’ve been involved with CSSP for about 18 years. Initially I trained as a primary school teacher, and I was always passionate about PE. I became a PE Advisor for Essex, delivering sports courses for teachers across the county. I was invited to work for the CSSP, where I started working one day a week – this was at the time when just five schools were involved. I eventually took on a full-time role as the School Games Organiser (SGO), with CSSP and we now have 60 schools involved!
What role do you think CSSP plays in local communities?
We play a unique but vital role within the communities here. By indirectly filtering through into the lives of children throughout Chelmsford we ensure that sport is accessible for all children across the borough and have the opportunity to be linked with clubs. One of the most pertinent examples of this that stands out is the role of CSSP during lockdown, which prevented everyone from exercising as much as they had done previously. We overcame this challenge by sending videos to school teachers who then emailed them onto to parents, and as a result managed to maintain a presence in every household in Chelmsford with children.
What would you recommend to families looking to increase the level of fitness and sport into their children’s schedules?
The most important message I tell parents is that by making little changes and doing small things as a family, you can increase fitness and sport in children’s schedules. Sport is as much about improving mental health and wellbeing as it is physical health – whether it’s parking your car a little further away and walking to school or going to the park, it doesn’t need to cost more to get more active as a family.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced at CSSP?
As it was for many, COVID was the biggest challenge we’ve ever had to face. Most of the work we do is in person and the pandemic meant we had to be creative and think about how we could support teachers and come up with activities, without adding to their workload. What’s more, the pandemic negatively affected the fitness levels of a lot of young people, particularly Years 3 and 4, which is why we are so pleased that the Fitness 3s and Y4 Superstars events were able to go ahead this year, thanks to the sponsorship and support of Countryside and L&Q’s Beaulieu development.
What’s been your favourite moment of your role at CSSP?
I’d have to say setting up and running the ‘mini games’ event for young children in Chelmsford. Our first ‘mini games’ event following COVID saw over 2,000 children across three days. On the last day of the event, one of the children came up to me and said ‘bye, I’ve had the best day of my life’, and as a six year-old who had missed out on a lot of school because of the pandemic, it filled me with delight that we had made such an impact.
What will you miss most about CSSP?
I will miss seeing young and older children achieve something they didn’t know they could, and seeing their confidence grow through sport, but I know that all the positive aspects of the programme will continue in my absence. Chris Huartson and Mandy Morris, both of whom I’ve worked with for 15 years, are taking over from me. Chris has worked in partnership with me for a number of years and has taken over the role of School Games Organiser, and Mandy, who knows the role really well, will be assisting him as the Sports Coordinator.