For four years, St Augustine of Canterbury’s astro turf pitch had been out of use after falling into a state of disrepair, with the surface deemed unsafe.
Since taking over the reins in 2019, headteacher Giselle Lynch was determined to bring the facility – used by the school and local community sports teams – back into use, a feeling shared by St Helens Borough Council which lent its support to get the project up and running, contributing some of its own Rugby League World Cup Legacy funding to the project.
Through a collaboration between the school, local authority and Rugby League World Cup 2021 as part of a CreatedBy capital grants programme – dedicated to giving people more and better opportunities to engage with the game of rugby league and to get active – funding totalling £107,000 was secured to resurface the pitch, complete with fencing and floodlights.
As the sand-based pitch was officially handed over last Friday (11 March), school staff, pupils and governors were treated to one more surprise – a visit from all three of the RLWC2021 trophies which were in the borough as part of a tour to promote the tournament coming to England later this year, for which St Helens is a host venue.
Commenting on how much of a difference the new and improved pitch will make to the school and wider community, Giselle Lynch said: “Since coming to the school, one of my main priorities was to get our artificial sports pitch back into use, a desire which was supported by senior figures at the council who have been most helpful in securing the funds necessary to do this.
“We’re delighted with the outcome which complements our changing rooms which underwent a refurbishment in 2019, and pupils can’t wait to start doing PE lessons on the new surface – while we’ve also got interest from local sports club about training here too.
“To have the Rugby League World Cup trophies on display for the handover was a nice touch and really capped off a special day for our school.”
Cllr Anthony Burns, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage, and Blackbrook ward Councillor, said:
“This facility had sat derelict for far too long when it could have been put to good use with the school and local sports teams, so I’m delighted we were able to bring it back to life and everyone seems delighted with the end result which is the main thing. To think what the pitch looks like now compared to its former condition is remarkable and it will prove to be vital community asset.
“We’ve made it clear in our recently adopted Active Lives strategy how education settings can be places that inspire young people to be more active and get involved so they develop habits for life – and this improved facility will help achieve that. It is also great to see another scheme benefit from our joint work with the Ruby League World Cup CreatedBy fund and I’m sure it will be enjoyed by the local sports teams and the school for many years to come.”
Jon Dutton, Chief Executive, RLWC2021, said: “The CreatedBy RLWC2021 Capital Grants Programme is focused on ensuring the next generation of rugby league players have the best possible experience and barriers to participate are removed. We are delighted to award this grant and look forward to seeing the results of this investment that aims to deliver real change in their community.”