This article forms part of a series of reports which accompanies the 2021-22 BF Annual Report.
Our Project and Programme work is primarily funded by Sport England and delivers to identified under-represented groups in a series of agreed projects to meet outcomes agreed with Sport England. These outcomes are aligned with the BF objectives to deliver accessible inclusive swordplay opportunities delivered via partnership programmes (objective 3) and maximise the wider benefits of fencing and the positive impact it can have on people’s lives (objective 5).
With continued disruption still being caused by the pandemic, face-to-face delivery was limited during the first half of the year, however, virtual engagement across a number of projects continued to take place.
Areas of focus included:
During 2021-22, like all areas of the sport, the impact of the pandemic continued to hamper the delivery across the portfolio of Projects and Programmes. The BF team provided support as and when necessary for those partners still seeing a demand for virtual and hybrid delivery. Towards the later part of the year, as restrictions lifted and confidence began to grow, the number of opportunities to take part in face-to-face fencing increased across partners, with training being offered to support existing and new coaches.
The majority of face-to-face delivery therefore took place in February and March 2022:
The use of Zoom and focused WhatsApp groups provided the most beneficial platform to stay connected with partners, keeping them informed and up to date on the re-start of the sport.
Below is a summary of the focus of our engagement with delivery partners over the last year.
Partner Engagement – HE Sector
Staying connected with Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
Using a range of communication platforms such as WhatsApp and Zoom, we continued to stay connected with over 50 Club Officers across the UK and share information such as revised COVID guidelines, and updates on plans for the University Fencing Officer (UFO) course. With an initial course planned for January 2021, due to Covid, the course was postponed until March 2021.
In March 2021, 18 University Students from 15 different HEIs, attended the UFO course at the Manchester Fencing Centre. Despite the timing in relation to the academic year, it was important to be able to deliver, connect and provide opportunities for HEIs and students keen to re-start fencing as soon as possible in their institutions.
“The UFO course helped to boost my confidence in how to coach a group of beginners in the basics of fencing. The practical experience throughout the weekend was vital in doing so, along with the one-on-one feedback from the trainers.
Having a group of fencers from different university clubs across the country has helped to build a network were anyone can go to for help or advice with coaching. I feel more prepared to help future beginner fencers to build their skills, but also have fun along the way.
Having a female trainer at the course enabled the female UFOs to be able to go to someone who understands the potential problems that female coaches could experience and to receive guidance in how to avoid this.”
(Course participant quote)
Looking forward, to 2022-23 a second UFO training course is planned for September 2022, as well as future CPD opportunities in 2023.
Supporting Youth Partners – Uniformed Groups and London Youth
With many organisations seeing staff and volunteers leave their roles and not return as activity began to restart in the second part of the year, up-skilling new leaders and youth workers saw a very gradual increase in the number of courses being delivered as the year progressed.
A project targeting Scout groups through the Muslim Scouts Fellowship resulted in 25 leaders from across the country becoming qualified Core Coaches. Delivered across two venues, Scout leaders from 15 different groups attended the training, with many of them taking their skills back to deliver to young people who would not normally have the opportunity to take part in fencing. Work is continuing with this network, to grow opportunities for more young people to get involved in the sport.
“The course was genuinely so fun and well-structured and really help us to facilitate sessions for our group!” (Course participant quote)
Looking forward to 2022-23, planning took place to address the role that key partners such as London Youth and the Scout Association can play in Tackling Inequalities, supporting more young people from underrepresented groups to take part in fencing.
Muslim Girls Fence
The majority of delivery throughout the year continued to be delivered online, with high levels of anxiety in relation to returning to face-to-face activity still present for many of the participants. As Covid restrictions began to relax, a number of groups at the tail end of the year started face-to-face delivery again in London, Birmingham and Bradford.
In September 2021, the first face-to-face training took place in Bradford, for coaches from Birmingham, Bradford and Doncaster. The session was the first opportunity since January 2020 to bring the coaches together, build confidence and develop coaching skills.
For the first time, BF recruited a part-time Project Manager in the second half of the year, dedicated to working on MGF. This role has provided a much-needed resource that will continue to grow and support the project, in partnership with Maslaha.
Sport England Future Investment
In early 2021, BF began the process of applying for future investment from Sport England. Working collaboratively with the team at Sport England, over a seven-month period, the team worked on a comprehensive and ultimately successful funding bid to deliver against BFs strategic objectives, as they align to Sport England’s 10-year strategy, Uniting the Movement.
Sport England research shows that some groups are typically less active – like women, people with long-term health conditions, disabled people, people from ethnically diverse communities and lower socio-economic groups. Right now, the opportunities to get involved in sport and activity – and reap the rewards of being active – depend too much on background, gender, bank balance and postcode.
Sport England are funding over 120 organisations to address these challenges, including BF.
BF’s highly successful Muslim Girls Fence project and our pilot project working with young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder are just two examples of where fencing projects delivered in collaboration with external partners can make a positive impact on people’s lives. BF recognises the role that fencing can play in people’s lives beyond purely giving them the opportunity to be active, and also see it serve as a tool for making positive social change in communities and individuals’ lives.
With the transfer of responsibilities from British Disability Fencing into British Fencing, this funding also provides an exciting opportunity to increase opportunities at all levels of our sport for people with disabilities, importantly not limited to those with disabilities who meet the categories to allow them to compete in para-fencing internationals.
The total investment from Sport England is £2,714,002 over 5 years.
‘Behind the Mask’ Research
‘Building on the 2014 ‘Tribal Insights’ research, BF commissioned Crowd DNA to undertake a further piece of research, with the following objectives in mind:
The research provided BF with invaluable insights about the existing fencing community as well as a greater understanding of the motivations, characteristics and behaviours of those interested in taking up the sport.
Looking forward, the insight will be shared across the community, with a focus on how to apply the learnings as a club or coach, to support growth and retention as they re-build post pandemic.
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