Newham is our home and the home borough for most of our athletes. We are proud to be part of the borough that hosted the incredible 2012 Olympics and believe in its legacy to ‘inspire a future generation of athletes.’
Newham is home to over 340,000 people who create a unique and diverse blend of ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. 55% of Newham residents were born in countries outside of the United Kingdom. 40% of Newham’s population is Asian and 20% of the population is black. Newham residents speak over 100 different languages and 41% of Newham residents do not speak English as their first language. We see this diversity reflected in our athletes, 34% of whom have parents who were born outside of the UK and 32% of whom speak English as a second language.
We believe that living and training in this diverse, multi-cultural environment develops our athletes into fully rounded individuals and future leaders of their community. However, Newham’s residents and our athletes also face unique challenges. Newham has one of the highest rates of child poverty across the UK. Child poverty increases the risk of childhood obesity, causes a gap in educational attainment that widens as children progress through the school system and negatively impacts children’s mental health. AEC works to combat all three of these effects.
According to a recent study, poor children at age five are almost twice as likely to be obese than wealthy children. By the time children are 11, that gap has tripled. The two primary factors that contribute to this gap are the high prices of healthy food and the lack of opportunities for children living in poverty to engage in sport. At AEC, we use cheerleading to engage Newham’s children in an active, athletic activity. Our cheerleaders train at the gym between two to four times days a week, meaning they receive two to eight hours of active physical activity per week. In addition, we encourage them to train at home regularly so that they can complete some form of physical activity every day.
Child poverty also reduces a child’s ability to focus and perform well at school. Poorer children obtain substantially lower marks than their wealthier counterparts at the end of Key Stage 2 (between the ages of eight and eleven), a gap that continues throughout the rest of their educations. In the borough of Newham, less than 60% of students achieve five or more GCSE grades at A*-C including English and Maths. However, being active in sport and athletic activities has also been shown to improve children’s ability to focus and perform well at school. Almost all our athletes achieve at least five GCSE grades at A*-C, and over 90% of our senior athletes who have been with the program for at least five years go on to further education, university, or apprenticeships.
At AEC, we want to give our athletes the tools to succeed both on and off the mat. We therefore maintain a study space to support our athletes’ academic and educational achievements. This space is available to our athletes at any time, whether they just want a comfortable place to complete their homework, or if they require support from our academic mentor who works at the gym on a full-time basis. Our academic mentor who manages the study area is a qualified English teacher with ten years teaching experience and supports our athletes in developing their full academic potential. At AEC, we want to give our athletes the best possible opportunities for their adult lives and believe our high expectations for them set that standard. In addition to providing general academic support, our academic mentor also develops specialised mentoring programs for athletes who are in danger of under-achieving or receiving more severe sanctions from their schools. All of our athletes are required to provide AEC with copies of their school reports in order to enable us to monitor their academic progress. If we determine that an athlete needs additional support, our academic mentor contacts the athlete’s school directly and works together with the school to develop a support and mentoring program for that athlete. Due to this program’s success, we also receive requests to participate in this program from athletes’ parents and our athletes themselves. Many of the athletes participating in the specialised mentoring programs have personally requested to join, because they have seen the program make a profound difference in the lives of their friends and teammates.
At AEC, we focus on instilling our core values of confidence, teamwork and leadership into each athlete we work with. Child poverty and the challenges of a diverse community can leave children feeling lonely, powerless and frightened. We believe that at AEC, we provide our athletes with positive and empowering tools to transform their lives: the discipline of working together as a team, the ability to learn new and unique skills and the dedication required to compete at an elite level. Through our training programs, academic support and athletic activities, we believe our athletes gain the skills they need to progress into adulthood and live successful lives.