Dallaglio brings rugby to children with learning difficulties

Lawrence Dallaglio with the Foundation's coaches Will Smith (far left) and Ed Taylor (far right) and pupils from Priory Lodge School in south-west London
Lawrence Dallaglio with the Foundation’s coaches Will Smith (far left) and Ed Taylor (far right) and pupils from Priory Lodge School in south-west London

The Dallaglio Foundation, the charity founded by England Rugby legend Lawrence Dallaglio, has teamed up with the Priory Group, the UK mental healthcare and education specialists, to help youngsters with special educational needs get a foothold in the workplace.


The charity is launching its flagship ‘RugbyWorks’ programme across a number of Priory specialist schools to help pupils with autism, Asperger’s, and behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, develop the skills they need to lead a fulfilling adult life.


Lawrence Dallaglio and pupil
Lawrence Dallaglio and pupil

The Foundation uses the power of rugby to help youngsters learn teamwork, respect, discipline, and responsibility – and through exposing them to vocational opportunities, it helps young people build up their confidence and self-esteem.


Using the values of rugby, the Dallaglio Foundation’s coaches and mentors work to equip young people to cope, and plan a future within competitive and fast-paced environments.


Coaches working for the Dallaglio Foundation already deliver in 27 other alternative provision educational sites, engaging with 14-17 year olds with a range of needs including mental health conditions and behavioural difficulties resulting in exclusion from mainstream schools. Their programme is designed to help disengaged young people into sustained education, training or employment.


At Priory, they will initially be working in four schools – Priory Lodge in Roehampton, south-west London, Talocher School in Monmouth, Queenswood School in Ledbury, Herefordshire and Mark College in Somerset.


In the first three schools, the programme is designed specifically to help pupils with autism, Asperger’s and behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, prepare for life in the workplace.


The pupils do not attend mainstream schools, which are frequently ill-equipped to meet their needs.


Lawrence Dallaglio and Joseph of Priory Lodge School (2)
Lawrence Dallaglio and Joseph of Priory Lodge School

At Mark College, the programme is geared towards pupils with specific learning difficulties including language disorders, dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia.


Many young people who are engaged in the RugbyWorks programme have found that rugby is therapeutic, helping their well-being. And their studies have improved as their frustrations have dissipated, with the pitch becoming their second home.


Rachel Roxburgh, CEO of the Dallaglio Foundation, said: “We’re delighted to be launching RugbyWorks with Priory Group. We’re proud of how RugbyWorks has made an impact within exclusion units and are confident that the values of the programme will support the young people at Priory Group schools and have a positive impact on their future.”


Mark Underwood, CEO of Priory Group’s Education and Children’s Services, said: “We are thrilled to be working with the Dallaglio Foundation. Their coaches bring excellent skills in mentoring and personal development, with the aim of helping young people get into work. That’s so important for our youngsters who face so many challenges in their area, not least from employers who can underestimate their ability.


“Some will love learning about the physical rough and tumble and others will learn how to overcome setbacks, cope better with changes to routine and develop positivity and engagement. Either way – it is a win-win. Knowing the coaches understand specific learning difficulties and have worked with children with behavioural and emotional and social difficulties makes all the difference.”


Lawrence Dallaglio OBE, Founder of the Dallaglio Foundation – who was capped 85 times for England during a 12-year international career – added: “I’ve seen first-hand how the power of rugby can be transformational in behaviour, confidence and future prospects. I’m passionate about the work we do and am looking forward to working with the Priory to ensure a lasting impact on the lives of young people across the country.”


Priory Education and Children’s Services operate 26 schools and colleges in the UK, attended by pupils with special educational needs.


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