From education to employment

Leading activity education provider Aspire wins prestigious national Lloyds Bank business award

Activity education and training provider Aspire Active Education Group has won a national business award for its impact tackling child inactivity levels during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Birmingham-based Aspire Active Education Group has been named a winner in the Lloyds Bank Small Business of 2021 awards, which honour businesses across the UK, for its positive work engaging children and young people in physical activity.

Based in Spitfire Road, Aspire provide innovative delivery and training services along with education resources to inspire children and young people to be more active, more often. The Aspire aim is to “end physical inactivity forever” and help one million children move by 2024.

Founded in 2005, Aspire work with nearly 200 schools nationwide, providing PE, sport and physical activity support to get children moving. Aspire also delivers apprenticeships through its training arm and provides school holiday activity sessions from Aspire Active Camps, its Ofsted-registered childcare provider.

Aspire supports around 40 children’s physical activity providers across the UK through Aspire Active Partnerships, a network of organisations which provided information and support for members as they reacted to the challenges of successive lockdowns.

During the pandemic, Aspire survived the toughest times in its history while supporting the Partnership network, providing invaluable resources to help partners provide activity sessions for children during lockdown. The Partnership work led some business owners to reveal they would not have survived without Aspire’s support.

Gareth Oakley, managing director of business banking at Lloyds Bank, said Aspire was named a Small Business of 2021 winner in recognition of its impact. He said: “Aspire provides a vital service to schools and children in the West Midlands, and to similar organisations further afield. It has shown great determination and adaptability during a challenging time and is a worthy recipient of this award.”

The prize is a mentoring session with Dominic Cools-Lartigue, founder of pop-up food market Street Feast. Dominic will provide insight and support to help Aspire to continue to grow the business in the year ahead.

Director Paul Griffiths, who launched Aspire with co-founder James Trowman, said the recognition of being named a Lloyds Bank Small Business of 2021 award winner was “very much welcomed”. Paul said:

“To receive a Lloyds Bank Small Business award means a great deal to Aspire after we pulled together as a team to continue to tackle physical inactivity among children and young people amid the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and lockdowns.

“I’m really proud of every member of the team for their constant hard work and dedication, especially during such unprecedented times. We exist to combat inactivity among children and predominantly work with primary schools.

“When the pandemic hit and schools closed, we pivoted operations to offer more business support to our Aspire Active Partnerships network. This involved webinars, resources, peer support group sessions and weekly huddles. It created an online forum where the owners of these like-minded organisations could share challenges and good practice.

“Running a small business can be a lonely place at times and that was especially true during the first lockdown. But the network has become a close-knit community and we have now evolved that side of the business into an ongoing support system, all with the aim of getting more children engaged in activity.”

Increases in screen time among young people and more pressure in schools to deliver results in academic subjects like English and maths has led to less physical activity and wellbeing education among children, which was further impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. A survey by Sport England found the number of children and young people in the country who were physically active fell during the 2019/20 academic year.

Before the pandemic, Aspire worked with more than 100,000 children every year. Through Partnerships in the past 12 months, Aspire estimate that they had an impact on well over 250,000 children, thanks to the virtual reach of its online resources such as Maths on the Move.

Paul and the rest of Aspire’s 44-strong team have worked with clients and young people as restrictions eased over recent months. Aspire also deliver the government funded Bikeability cycle training programme. It also worked with 16 schools and more than 10,000 children throughout the summer as part of the Marcus Rashford-backed Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) initiative.

As a “gateway partner” for the Government KickStart youth employment programme, Aspire helped Partnership members and network colleagues offer placements to young people at risk of long-term unemployment. Through its KickStart work, in total Aspire has supported 60 organisations and 216 placements.

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