School of Hard Knocks for Schools, South London

by School of Hard Knocks in London, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 30th October 2016 we successfully raised £20,450 with 90 supporters in 28 days

SOHK for Schools is an in-depth intervention to improve the lives of children at risk of permanent exclusion through rugby and mentoring.

by School of Hard Knocks in London, England, United Kingdom

New stretch target

Thank you so much for supporting SOHK for Schools Southwark - we are delighted to have hit our target, thanks to the amazing support of people like you!  A further £10,000 will help us guarantee a whole second year for the project, sustaining our involvement with some of the most vulnerable young people in society.

We need to raise £20,000 to make this project happen and to help expand the project into South London to change lives and create futures.

Who are the School of Hard Knocks?

SOHK is a charity that uses sport to tackle unemployment, crime and health.  We work with children and adults, helping them take responsibility and positive steps forward in their lives.

SOHK offers a number of different programmes, each tailored to its audience and principal aims.  The constant factor is our methodology – controlled confrontation, challenging activities and a constant affirmation of self-worth and motivation. We help adults and children to:

  • grow in confidence
  • take personal responsibility for their lives and actions
  • experience the value of teamwork and diversity
  • learn the value of respect: both of others and of themselves
  • realise their own potential
  • reengage with employment or education

Our work started out four years ago and so far we have achieved fantastic results working with unemployed adults and pupils at risk of permanent exclusion from school, helping them to change their lives.

What is the ‘SOHK for Schools’ Programme?

Our schools programme is a long-term intervention, helping the most at-risk students to complete mainstream education.  Students identified by their school are supported in recognising and overcoming challenges that lead to truancy or disruptive behaviour.  Through weekly mentoring and rugby sessions, our expert coaches seek to understand the story that lies behind a student who is at risk of exclusion – whether that is due to attitude and behaviour in school or more deep-seated issues related to their mental health or a difficult life at home.

We ask schools for up to 25 of their Year 9 students, whom they would consider most in danger of exclusion.  We then work with this group throughout the academic year for up to three years.  Each week, our coaches run a rugby coaching session and make themselves available before, during and after the session to mentor students.  This includes one-to-one sessions, facilitated conversations with teachers and even attending lessons to support with specific projects or pieces of learning.

Our pilot programme has been running since early 2015 in east London.  During the first year of work, we have both refined the programme method in collaboration with the schools and seen some truly remarkable results.

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In total last year there were 55 students on the SOHK School programme and after just 10 weeks the total number of behaviour referrals received by the group fell by 71%.  95% of this group received fewer referrals in their second term with SOHK than their first. One particular success story was a student who had received 20 referrals in the first half of the year, approximately one per week, and during the second half of the year received just 6 referrals, working out to approximately 1 every 3 weeks.  We are delighted that one student who was considered seriously at-risk is now Deputy Head Boy at his school.

Classroom and management staff have reported striking improvements not only in behaviour and attainment but, most importantly, focus and ambition:

“The programme has had a massive impact on some of the boys.  The turnaround has been quite remarkable.”

Ms Bower, Headteacher, Royal Docks School

If you don’t want to take our word for it, see what our participants are saying:

“The School of Hard Knocks has helped me with school and my behaviour, teamwork and communication skills massively. The coaches have helped by being more than just a coach – helping us personally and with our progress at school. Overall, SOHK helped me in a big way and I hope it helps more people in the future too”.

Ronnie, 15

“SOHK got me running about, using energy that I wasn't using. It is a good way to unwind after school. It is always something I look forward to and it helps me behave. Why? Because I know if I don’t behave, I don’t get to attend – so it really helps me to focus in lessons”.

Levi, 15

“When I heard the word “RUGBY” I used to start running! Now, I love it – it’s good exercise and it helps me to keep calm in other areas of my life. I’ve really learned how to communicate well with others”.

Fredrick, 15

Why does this matter?

It has been estimated that the cost to society of excluding one pupil is £64,000 (New Philanthropy Capital, 2007). In 2014/15 in England there were an average of 25 permanent exclusions in state secondary schools every day. The SOHK for Schools programme costs just £600 per pupil per year. In our East London programme we had 94% retention over 2 years. That’s 53 pupils previously at risk of exclusion who have stayed in school.

It’s not just the cost benefit. Recent research by the Prince’s Trust found that in 2012 a quarter of a million young people in England left school with fewer than five good GCSEs. These young people with few qualifications are almost twice as likely as their peers to believe that they will “never amount to anything”. By keeping our participants in school we are increasing their chances of staying in education to receive qualifications and dramatically improve the outlook for their future.


With your help SOHK has the opportunity to bring this programme to a new population of school children in need. Through rugby coaching and mentoring SOHK is changing lives, one pupil at a time.

We want to expand the SOHK for Schools programme into South London. The programme will at first focus on schools in and around Southwark.  In 2016, Southwark state secondary schools had 28.8% of their pupils receiving free school meals, the fourth highest of any Borough.

How can you help?

We need to raise £20,000 to match funds already pledged which will enable us to start a new SOHK for Schools programme in South London.

SOHK for Schools costs just £600 per pupil per year.  This is currently funded via three avenues.  We ask the school to contribute from the Pupil Premium they receive from the Government for pupils who require additional support; we pitch to trusts and foundations to support this work; and the remainder is made up from donations given by you (our very generous supporters).  

With your help we will start this project in South London by Christmas.  We already have our first partner school, Bacon’s College, but we need to secure funding to commit to the other schools who believe this programme will turn around their most challenging students.

We need to raise £20,000 to make this project happen and to help change the lives of children in South London.

If you’re passionate about sport, education and improving the lives of struggling young people, please make a donation. And if you’re from South London and would like to see change in your community please consider making a pledge.

We also know that publicity is crucial for this campaign, so please help us spread the word on social media:

Twitter: @sohkcharity

Facebook: @sohkcharity

Instagram: sohkcharity

LinkedIn: School Of Hard Knocks - Charity

What’s in it for you?

If this project is successful, it will make a real and lasting difference to the lives of children in South London. Your support will ensure that we can start changing lives and creating futures.

In return for your contribution there are various rewards, which you can see in the panel on the right.

If you feel that you would rather the full amount of your pledge went towards our programme feel free to send an email to to opt-out of the reward.

Terms and Conditions apply.  To see our tangible rewards, please click here and here.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£5 or more

£5 Reward

A heartfelt thank you email from England Legend Andy Gomarsall MBE.

£10 or more

15 of 250 claimed

£10 Reward

Entry to a raffle to win one of five exclusive SOHK t-shirts.

£25 or more

28 of 100 claimed

£25 Reward

Your very own exclusive SOHK t-shirt!

£50 or more

32 of 75 claimed

£50 Reward

Your SOHK t-shirt and a unique SOHK backpack to carry it in!

£100 or more

12 of 25 claimed

£100 Reward

2 x tickets to SOHK Series 9 Preview Event to watch the series finale before broadcast with a host of rugby legends, plus your exclusive SOHK t-shirt.

£600 or more

2 of 10 claimed

£600 Reward

2 x tickets to watch the Series 10 final game with SOHK founder Ken Cowen, 2 x tickets to the Series 9 preview event AND your exclusive SOHK t-shirt to show your support for the team!

£1,000 or more

5 of 5 claimed

£1,000 Reward

An exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of SOHK Series 10 for two plus a drink with Scott Quinnell, 2 x tickets for the final match of the series and an exclusive SOHK t-shirt.

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