“They come here and they get their self-confidence, self-esteem and self-belief back.”
The Hackney Boxing Academy was set-up in 2007 to cater for children aged between 13 and 16 who had been expelled from the mainstream education system. And in the past seven years it has emerged as a true British success story.
Now with an intake of 40, there are plans to extend the school and a programme which sees professional and amateur boxers acting as mentors to kids who take their lessons alongside guided boxing coaching sessions on a daily basis.
“The sport helps them take out their aggression and encourages discipline,” says Clarke. “It also helps the children’s fitness levels and improves their concentration in class.”
The project has been an extraordinary success, with 90% of the children who leave the school going straight into college education or employment. Little wonder that kids are travelling from across London to attend and the waiting list is growing.
The boxing mentors themselves are with the child from the moment they arrive in school in the morning to the minute they leave. They also act as classroom assistants, effectively policing behaviour to allow the teachers to teach and maximising the educational opportunities for the children, who are taught in ‘pods’ of eight.
So successful has the project proved that countries such as Jamaica and Australia have sent visitors to the Academy to see it in action and as that interest grows, then so does the realisation that this unique project is clearly onto something.