On 18th November, the Active Suffolk Awards celebrated the region’s sporting achievements and Red Oak Primary School, based in Lowestoft, was thrilled to win the award for ‘Active Primary School of the Year 2022’, coming first out of 303 primary schools.

The school, which is part of The Active Learning Trust, has been on a successful trajectory, achieving many accolades recently, including The Inclusion Quality Mark (IQM) for being an ‘excellent example of inclusive practice’, the IQM Centre of Excellence status, the School Games Platinum Mark Award and the RACE Charter Mark Silver Award for its commitment to action and improvement in relation to race equality.

Executive Head Teacher Heather Madsen commented: “I’m so proud of my team for achieving this award and I’d like to extend my gratitude to Mr Lee for leading this area. As a school we’re very lucky to have such committed staff who support our PE lessons, our healthy school initiatives and our daily walks.”

“At Red Oak Primary School our aim is to help pupils succeed by reaching their potential academically, socially, personally, spiritually and of course physically. Sport at Primary level is about much more than developing physical skills; it teaches children about fairness, self-esteem, problem solving, teamwork and so much more.”

Upon accepting the award, Johnny Lee, who is the PE and Sports Coordinator for Red Oak Primary School and the Associate Leader of PE and Sports for The Active Learning Trust said “It is a great honour for our school to win the Active Suffolk Award for Active Primary School of the Year for a third time. In the past nine years, our school has organised and hosted 360 sports tournaments for other schools and last year we organised and hosted another 42 tournaments. All of the staff at the school have worked very hard with supporting their students with their physical activity and sports provisions, it has been a real team effort.”

The school has been praised for its commitment to finding innovative ways to keep students engaged with physical activity.

“Childhood fitness is such an important issue and our aim is for all of our students to leave our school with the education that they need so that they are inspired to carry on with sports and exercise for the rest of their lives” added Mr Lee.

Craig D'Cunha, Acting Chief Executive Officer of The Active Learning Trust, said: “On behalf of The Active Learning Trust, I would like to congratulate Red Oak Primary School for this award. The school’s ethos is firmly based on a deep consideration of every individual pupil’s needs and Headteacher, Heather has done an incredible job of leading and supporting her colleagues to ensure that pupils fulfil their potential.”

Some of the work carried out by the school, that led to winning the award includes:

Organisation of 42 sports tournaments in the past year for other local schools in Suffolk: These took place after school, where other schools would come to Red Oak to compete in regular sports competitions. The tournaments were organised by the school's PE Department and catered for children in Year 1 up to Year 6. The competitive tournaments included many sports, creating opportunities for approximately 3000 primary school students in Suffolk. Included in this were 15 football tournaments partnered with Ipswich Town FC Foundation and inclusive tournaments for students with special needs and disabilities.

Partnership work with Ipswich Town FC Foundation: The school worked closely with Ipswich Town FC to help develop school football in North Suffolk. The school organised and hosted 15 primary school football tournaments called the Ipswich Town FC ALT North Suffolk Schools' Cup. The tournaments were very successful, each being attended by hundreds of children from different schools, including advanced leagues, beginners leagues, girls-only leagues and an inclusive league for children with special needs and mobility difficulties. The leagues and tournaments set up by Red Oak Primary are the biggest primary school football provisions in the county. The partnership raised the profile of the school football leagues resulting in many children being scouted to join Ipswich Town's Youth Development programmes and several school excursions to watch Ipswich Town play in matches. The staff of Red Oak Primary School sacrifice their weekends to facilitate these weekend trips, giving their free time so that students (the majority of whom are from a deprived area in Lowestoft) can experience live football in a stadium.

Inclusive Sports: With just under 500 students, the school is large and the PE Department regularly monitors the fitness levels of its students, supporting those who struggle with coordination, fine motor skills and with confidence in PE and physical activity. The PE Department has created weekly intervention sessions called 'Panathlon Club' where students take part in fun and nurturing workshops to help them to develop their fine motor skills, coordination and confidence. The club is sponsored by the Panathlon Charity (an organisation that helps develop special needs sports in the UK) and is run by the school's PE staff and heavily supported by the school's Year 5/6 Junior Sports Leaders. The Red Oak Panathlon teams take part in competitions against other local children with special needs and the Red Oak PE Department also organises regular Panathlon Challenge competitions for other schools to attend in the Red Oak sports hall. Last year the school organised and hosted the ALT North Suffolk Schools' Key Stage 1 Panathlon Challenge and the ALT North Suffolk Schools' Key Stage 2 Panathlon Challenge. Red Oak also organised and managed the ALT North Suffolk Primary Schools' 10-pin Bowling Panathlon at the Lowestoft bowling ally. The school also organised and hosted the Ipswich Town ALT North Suffolk Schools' Inclusive Football Tournament for children with special needs.

Attendance of after school sports clubs: Red Oak offered a vast range of after school sports clubs last year for all Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 year groups. These clubs were attended by 90% of our students and 76% of our students also regularly played for our school sports teams against other schools. 

Supporting other schools and teachers with physical activity: Last year Red Oak organised and hosted training and development workshops for trainee teachers/university students from across Suffolk where Mr Lee trained future primary school teachers on how to deliver physical activity sessions. School PE staff also went into other schools in Lowestoft and Ipswich to work with their PE staff and Senior Leadership Teams to help develop PE programmes and physical activity in their schools. Red Oak staff also went into other schools in Ipswich to help them to manage, organise and run their school sports days. Red Oak has done a lot this year to support other schools, teachers and future teachers.

Superstar workshops: Red Oak has partnered with many high profile local sports stars, making them 'Red Oak Ambassadors'. Ambassadors include England football captain Terry Butcher, Team GB Olympic boxer Charley Davison and Ipswich Town FC female record goal scorer Natasha Thomas. The PE Department has worked closely with the sports stars in the past year and organised regular visits and workshops where the stars visited students to talk to them about motivation and the importance of physical activity. The ambassadors will all be returning this year for more workshops. 

Schools Against Racism: In 2022, Red Oak hosted the UK's first ever Schools' Against Racism football festival. Hundreds of primary school children from across North Suffolk came to a curriculum day where the Red Oak PE staff taught students about the history of racism in football and sports and discussed the current racism issues in the game. Students learned about the impact of internet trolling and how to be good sports fans and participants. The children created anti-racism campaign videos and art work before taking part in a football tournament in the afternoon, upon where they took the knee before games to show solidarity for those who have faced racism or prejudice in their lives. This curriculum day was the first of its kind in the UK and ITV News covered the event. The Schools Against Racism Campaign was set up by Red Oak and it is supported by the Suffolk FA, Norfolk FA and Essex FA.