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United Learning's Spirit of Rio Festival Launches in London

United Learning's Spirit of Rio Festival Launches in London

200 students and staff joined forces today in London’s Olympic Park to launch United Learning’s Spirit of Rio festival.

The four-week cultural and sporting festival will unite United Learning’s academies and independent schools across the country in a celebration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer. The festival is being supported by the United Learning Partnership Fund, which was established to nurture collaboration between schools and extend enrichment opportunities for students and staff.

Some of the celebrations planned over the course of the festival include a virtual torch relay, Carnival-style community events across the country and themed learning based on the Games’ values and South American history and culture. As part of the festival, schools are also fundraising for the ABC Trust, a charity which supports disadvantaged children in Brazil.

The launch event, held at the Copper Box, also formed part of a special awards ceremony for United Learning’s X-Elle Programme; an initiative which aims to encourage girls into sport and to become sports leaders within their own schools. Girls from Years 7-9 from nine of the Group’s schools were in attendance to celebrate their graduation from the programme and receive awards for particularly excellent work.

The schools involved were Barnsley Academy, Glenmoor Academy, Nova Hreod Academy, Sheffield Park Academy, Sheffield Springs Academy, Shoreham Academy, Stockport Academy, The Regis School and Paddington Academy.

During the day, students heard from skier Chemmy Alcott, one of United Learning’s Sport Ambassadors, about her own Olympic experience as well as from representatives for the ABC Trust on their work in Brazil. Between celebrating their nominations and awards, the girls enjoyed a capoeira performance by a group from Stockport Academy, who then taught the Brazilian martial art to all attendees. There was also a special appearance from Walthamstow Academy’s student samba band which performed at the event.

The day’s award winners were:

  • Faye Smith, Sheffield Park Academy – National X-Elle Leader of The year (prize: iPod);
  • Stockport Academy – National X-Elle Best Video of the Year (prize: camera);
  • Shoreham Academy – National X-Elle Best School of the year (prize: iPad).

A student from Sheffield Park Academy said of the day:

“The biggest difference which the X-Elle Programme has made in my school is that we’ve helped over 100 other girls take part in our dance lessons.”

Another student said:              

“X-Elle has made me more confident to engage in my lessons.”

Catherine Barker, Head of Music and Performing Arts at United Learning, said:

"Today we have launched an exciting initiative that will bring together 1,000s of United Learning pupils this summer. Our Spirit of Rio festival is an opportunity for our schools to celebrate together, wherever they may be across the country – from samba workshops to capoeira, from sports days to carnivals, United Learning schools will be alive with the spirit of Rio this summer.”

Shaun Dowling, Head of Sport at United Learning, said:

“We know that huge international occasions such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games can be the catalyst and inspiration to provide incredible experiences for young people in schools.  It is at times such as these that areas of school life such as music, art, dance and sport, which already contribute so much to the soul of a school, can really come into their own. 

“With the added attraction of having three Sport Ambassadors and at least one student representing Team GB in Brazil, our Spirit of Rio festival will be the perfect way for our schools to celebrate our involvement in the Games.”

For the next 20 days, watch out for more stories, photos and videos about the Spirit of Rio festival here or follow #unitedwithRio on Twitter.  

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