Story of hope as Jake scores a success in the HITZ squad

December 22 2017

Splits between parents can have devastating effects on children. For Jake Britton, it could have destroyed his life. But with the support of mum Hayley Cook and a sporting charity, Jake has carved out a great future for himself. Jake and his mum speak to Jayne Taylor to show how, with the right guidance, young people can turn their lives around

Splits between parents can have devastating effects on children. For Jake Britton, it could have destroyed his life. But with the support of mum Hayley Cook and a sporting charity, Jake has carved out a great future for himself. Jake and his mum speak to Jayne Taylor to show how, with the right guidance, young people can turn their lives around

 

JAKE Britton was in the first year of sixth-form at Mangotsfield School when his parents split up. It was a difficult time for all involved, not least for the 16-year-old who knew he had to knuckle down at school if he was to achieve good grades.

"Jake was really close to his dad and it really knocked him when we split," Hayley said, describing the separation as 'nasty'.

"I had been working 16 hours a week which meant I was around a lot but after we split I had to get a full-time job. Jake felt all alone because I was working and so was his older brother. He lost all interest in school and we couldn't get him motivated. He put on about three stone in about 10 weeks. I just didn't know what to do."

Hayley, 43, who lives with Jake and other son, 20-year-old Charlie, in Mangotsfield, knew continuing at school wasn't the right thing for Jake but it was now law that children stayed on in education until the age of 18. 

"I signed the release papers for Jake and said to the head 'What happens now? He's got no apprenticeship or college placement. What do I do?'"

The school put Jake in touch with social services whose careers advisers mentioned Bath Rugby Foundation, the charitable arm of Bath Rugby Club which runs courses under its HITZ programme aimed at unlocking the potential of 'non-traditional' learners through rugby.

Through sessions which are 50/50 practical and theory, the award winning programme gives young people the skills to get back into education, vocational training, apprenticeships and employment.

Jake, who had always loved sport, was immediately interested.

He said: "I played rugby before and thought if it was a rugby-based course then I was up for going to look around. When heard it was based at The Rec where Bath Rugby Club play, I thought that would be an experience in itself."

Curious, Jake went to look around in January 2017 on his 17th birthday.

"I had looked around other places like colleges but, like sixth-form, they just weren't for me. HITZ clicked with me straight away and stood out as something I'd enjoy." 

Aimed at 16 to 19-year-olds who aren't in education, employment or training, HITZ offers maths and English qualifications as well as the chance to study sporting diplomas.

Jake's first-day nerves about being the newbie soon vanished and to his surprised he discovered it was an environment he could thrive in.

"Knowing I was the new boy and had to travel in was a bit intimidating but on my first day everyone was really friendly and that made me feel a lot more confident about going back the next day."

Within months, Jake flourished, standing out as a natural leader, particularly with his work visiting schools telling young people about sport and fitness and championing the HITZ programme.

Jake's diligence and natural rapport with youngsters even earned him a national HITZ Young Ambassador of the Year award, which goes to an individual who has done the most to represent the HITZ programme to their peers and communities.

When he was handed the gong by Bath prop Kane Palma-Newport at a glittering ceremony at the BT Tower in London, Jake knew he had he chosen the right path.

Jake said: "Being nominated was an achievement but when I won it, it came as a bit of a shock. It was a stand-out moment for me and really meant something. HITZ has really changed my life."

Now Jake, who has bagged a part-time job in a sports shop in Bath, is looking forward to a very bright future as a rugby coach.

"I plan to finish my Level 2 course and from there go on to get my RFU coaching badge which could ultimately get me a job in rugby coaching.

 "Sixth-form wasn't for me. I had a lot on my mind because of my mum and dad splitting up and I just couldn't concentrate. Now I feel much more settled, positive and confident. I'm much more active too.

"I now have a better understanding of what I want to do for a career. The staff here want the best for me and will try to the best of their ability to help me get a job in rugby coaching."

Hayley, a confectioner, said: "Jake went from being in a family that would take him everywhere to having to do things for himself because I had to work. He never knew anyone on the course and had to catch two buses to get there but he still did it.

"By the April, I really noticed the difference in him. He'd lost weight and was much more sociable. He's doing really well. He's got himself a part-time job and has just passed his driving test. I'm so proud of him.

"HITZ has been a life-line not just for Jake but for the both of us. I can't champion the staff enough. They have given me my son back."

 

*Bath Rugby Foundation will be recruiting for a new cohort starting in Feb.Get in touch w by emailing paul.short@bathrugby.com or calling 0746 4545296.