What we do

ABOUT US

We use sport to tackle the issues surrounding unemployment, crime and health. We work with individuals to help them take responsibility and take positive steps forward in their lives.

School of Hard Knocks 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 people:
Grow in confidence.
Take personal responsibility for their lives and actions.
Experience the value of team work and diversity.
Learn the value of respect: both of others and of themselves.
Realise their own potential.
Reengage with employment or education.

The charity was founded in 2012 by Ken Cowen, who created the concept in 2007.

‘‘

I first pitched the idea of using rugby to help change the behaviour of men to Knowsley Council in Merseyside. Their response was plain and simple - that it was a stupid idea which wouldn’t work due to the fact that they didn’t have a single set of rugby posts in the borough. Obviously, posts are important: but I thought that it was a concept and idea worth pursuing because the values of rugby are life values.

’’

During this time, SOHK has run courses throughout England, Scotland and Wales, changing the lives of children and adults throughout the UK using rugby, boxing and strongman courses, supported by a curriculum of powerful life lessons.

Our work has been documented by Sky Sports since 2007 – for more information click here.

You can read more about SOHK’s work in the media here.

CHANGING LIVES

Our flagship course – a high impact and extremely challenging eight weeks for those who are not in education, employment or training. The ultimate aim is to get participants back into work or further education and to equip them emotionally for the challenges of the workplace.

Our courses can be for men, women or mixed, and run throughout the UK. We use a number of sports to facilitate positive change in our participants’ lives – including rugby, boxing and ‘learn to lift’.

CREATING FUTURES

SOHK for Schools began in January 2015, with a three-year commitment to three groups of disengaged children in three different schools in East London. This is an alternative curriculum provision, working once a week with children at risk of exclusion every week for three years. Initially on the school site, the course then embeds at a local rugby club, bringing all three cohorts in an area into one team.

Using a similar structure to the adult programme, with a combination of rugby and one-to-one mentoring, the programme aims to help each individual to meet positive and realistic goals towards good behaviour, attendance and academic attainment, and to raise their aspirations for life after education.

SKY SPORTS

Our work has been documented by Sky Sports once a year since 2007, with the ninth series filmed in the London Docklands in Spring 2016. Previous seasons have been filmed in Cardiff, Birmingham, Glasgow, Croydon and Liverpool.

Our official Youtube channel has behind-the-scenes content, updates and news.

You can see photos from our previous seasons here.

40%
SOHK sees over 40% of its participants gain work as a result of our courses.
71%
71% reduction in referrals for poor behaviour within two terms.
£64,000
£64 000 - the cost of one excluded child to society. SOHK for Schools costs just £600 for three years.
14%
A pilot programme for the hardest-to-reach JSA claimants (those who have have completed the Work programme without finding paid work at any point) helped 14% find work – nearly five times the success rate of the programme itself.
60%
60% of those who find work through the programme sustain their employment in the long term.
65%
Our best programmes have seen 65% of participants find work.
42%
42% of our beneficiaries in 2014 found full-time employment within 13 weeks.
0
0 young people on SOHK for Schools have been permanently excluded.
1/5
Over a fifth of participating students showing improvements in maths and English.

DATA FROM OUR ‘SOFT’ OUTCOMES IN 2014 SHOWED:

90%

of participants said that their self-confidence had increased.

90%

of participants said that their sense of belonging to a community had increased.

96%

of participants said their motivation had increased.

94%

of participants said that their ability to make positive choices had increased.

90%

of participants said that they felt more able to face challenges.

97%

of participants said they were more hopeful.