Full OnBoard Impact Report Now Available

25 Sep 20

A landmark study by the Institute of Education at University College London (UCL), which evidences that being part of OnBoard has a positive impact on young people’s lives, is now available to download in full. 

Read the RYA OnBoard Impact Report 

‘Children and Sailing*’: A research evaluation for the Royal Yachting Association and the Andrew Simpson Foundation’ was conducted by UCL researchers to examine the consequences of participation in the OnBoard programme.

The results have helped to identify how the programme contributes to the development of the RYA OB character attributes: creativity, teamwork, determination, communication, independence and confidence.

It also highlights how sailing and windsurfing correlate with benefits identified for physical activity generally and identifies how RYA OnBoard plays an important role in tackling social injustice by providing unique experiences which can help to develop self-confidence and open up further opportunities.

This is what the researchers found…

  • OnBoard sessions are enjoyed by almost all participants and engender feelings of fun and freedom

  • The sessions contribute to a participant’s wider personal and social development. This included enhancing their social skills with both peers and adults; maturity; ability to accept responsibility and concentrate on tasks

  • OnBoard plays an important role in tackling social injustice. It provides unique experiences to those from disadvantaged backgrounds and can help to develop self-confidence and open up further opportunities.

  • OnBoard sessions particularly develop the attributes of teamwork, communication and confidence.

  • Participants felt more supported by their peers. They also felt more relaxed and confident in themselves following an OnBoard session.


Coronavirus: Teens' anxiety levels dropped during pandemic, study finds

Interestingly, and linking in with our key finding about participants well-being, a recent University of Bristol survey has found that anxiety levels among young teenagers has dropped during the coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers surveyed 1,000 secondary school children in south west England. Thirteen to 14-year-olds were less anxious during lockdown than they had been last October, according to the University of Bristol survey.

They said the results were a "big surprise" and it raised questions about the impact of the school environment on teenagers' mental health.

They also compared findings from a survey taken in October last year to answers given by teenagers in May this year. Both girls and boys recorded decreased levels of anxiety during that timeframe. In October, 54% of 13 to 14-year-old girls and 26% of boys of the same age said they felt anxious. When surveyed in May - several weeks after schools shut to most pupils and nationwide lockdown restrictions came into force - the proportion dropped to 45% of girls and 18% of boys.

"With the whole world in the grip of a devastating pandemic, which has thrown everyone's lives into turmoil, the natural expectation would be to see an increase in anxiety," said lead author Emily Widnall. She added that pupils who felt least connected to school before lockdown saw a larger decrease in anxiety, raising questions about how the school environment affects some younger teenagers' mental well-being.

Read the University of Bristol survey here 

Bartley Sailing Club in Birmingham is among the clubs and activity centres providing RYA OnBoard in the Midlands region to have welcomed the report’s findings. Commodore Simon Hardiman said: “At Bartley SC we have seen real life examples of the benefits that the OnBoard programme and sailing in general bring to young people. There are very few opportunities for children to experience complete freedom and sailing is one of those activities which does exactly that. Our juniors have a wide expanse of water to explore in complete safety where they are in control of their craft and have to continually make decisions as the environment changes around them. The ‘games with aims’ focus keeps it fun whilst building teamwork and life long friendships.”

Andrea Longley, Chief Windsurfing Instructor at Burton Sailing Club, said: “I’m delighted to see the benefits of sailing and windsurfing recognised in this impactful report. Of course, none of the findings are a surprise to me as we see the benefits to our juniors every week, however it does remain a surprise to me that we are not inundated with parents and juniors looking to realise some of these benefits themselves. It’s so important to pass this message through to schools and parents and I really hope that through seeing this report, more juniors choose to access the fabulous activities available at local sailing and windsurfing clubs."

Caroline Scuffam, spokesperson for North Lincolnshire and Humberside Sailing Club added: "We have definitely seen the positive impact of sailing on our younger members over the years. In many instances we have had the privilege of seeing children mature and grow into young adults and seen how the regular, structured time on the water with coaches, parents and other children, has impacted in a positive way.

“Children quickly learn how to take responsibility for their equipment, communicate effectively with others, make their own decisions out on the water and most importantly have fun! Sailing is great for their physical development and mental health, for social skills and independence. We also see their personalities develop and they learn through good example respect, perseverance and dedication to the sport."

Hannah Cockle, RYA OnBoard Operations Officer, said: “We’re so pleased the UCL research team drew the conclusions that reinforced our own beliefs about the potential of OnBoard to positively impact young lives.

“Being on the water creates multiple situations where young people are challenged and tested as they learn a new activity. The OnBoard programme provides a safe and proven structure for this to happen and a great environment to help them develop the character attributes and capabilities so important for success in life.

“To reach and engage with more young people, whether that’s through schools, parents or other youth organisations, we have to be able to support the claims we make about the power of OnBoard. We’ve seen over many years the difference being OnBoard can make to young people over time, now this reports proves it.”

*371 young people (aged 8-17), from 19 schools and 14 sailing clubs or commercial sailing centres, completed before (baseline) and after (follow-up) questionnaires to assess the impact of being part of RYA OnBoard. Additionally, 11 instructors, teachers and parents/carers were also interviewed by qualitative researchers.