From teen education struggles to rugby coaching apprentice: How sport helped Jade Whale get her life back on track

Posted by Hannah on 04.03.19

After earning just one GCSE, Bath teenager is now a full-time rugby coach apprentice following the intervention of her local rugby club.

Rewind to GCSE results day in August 2017 and 16-year-old Jade Whale was overcome with disappointment. With just one passing GCSE grade, finding out her results was the culmination of a school life that she’d rather forget.

Low in self confidence and regularly skipping lessons, Jade was a self-confessed introvert at school who just didn’t enjoy the experience. Now, with disappointing results, she was unsure of where to turn next and what her future entailed.

On results day, she met a coach from the Bath Rugby Foundation, the charity of local Premiership Rugby club Bath Rugby. The coach informed her of HITZ, an education and employability programme by Premiership Rugby which supports 16-24-year-olds not in education, training or employment (NEET).

The programme allows these young people, who may have fallen out of the education system, like Jade, or have had a troubled upbringing, to use sport as an inspiration to gain valuable qualifications and work experience to get their lives back on track.

By September, Jade had enrolled in Bath Rugby’s HITZ programme and as well as committing to personal self-development, set about earning the English qualification she wanted. Having never played rugby before, HITZ also gave her a chance to try the sport and help form new friendships alongside her academic studies through the HITZ Learning Academy.

Quickly, Jade emerged as a real leader in her HITZ group, visibly growing in confidence and helping inspire others to progress and work hard. Complementing HITZ, she volunteered with the Bath Rugby Foundation before progressing to helping with mixed ability rugby training sessions with local grassroots club Walcott Warriors.

Initially, Jade was shy, lacked confidence and did not put herself forward, but through her time volunteering her whole attitude to different scenarios has completely changed, with new-found self-confidence. Through the sessions at Walcott Warriors, Jade met players from Bath Rugby Ladies, who invited her to training, and she is now signed up to play for the team, never missing a training session.

Her new-found confidence translated into the classroom as she achieved her English qualification. Following her volunteering efforts, she has now been awarded a rugby coaching apprenticeship at the Bath Rugby Foundation, coaching future participants on the HITZ programme and wider Bath mixed-ability community teams.

Jade said: “The HITZ tutors, the people, the coaches, they’re all just so amazing, so welcoming, it’s a friendly, family environment and I now have hope for what the future will bring.”

Jade’s fantastic one-year transformation was commended by Premiership Rugby themselves as she was crowned the winner of the Rugby Ambassador Award, supported by Land Rover, at the 2018 HITZ Awards.

“The award has inspired me to work even harder and I now know that I can actually go somewhere in life,” added Jade. “I’ve gone from being a kid with one GCSE from school to now being in the limelight with rugby, which feels amazing.”

The HITZ programme, delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon, uses rugby’s strong core values to improve life and employability skills for disadvantaged young people, underpinning success in education, life and work. The apprenticeship is delivered by SCL Education and Training. See for more.

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  • SCL are pleased to announce that they are Finalists for the Apprenticeship Provider of the Year!

  • SCL are an Ofsted registered Childcare provider.

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  • SCL is an employer partner of the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity.

  • SCL were awarded an Ofsted outstanding in 2015 for their Holiday Activities.

  • HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme.