In October 2019, linked to Parents in Sport Week, we circulated a Parent Survey via the RYA’s social media channels and the Club Room e-newsletter. Thank you to all 160 parents who responded, an increase from 103 in 2017. Just under 60% of parents responding had a child in an RYA or class association squad.
Whilst two-thirds of children were still introduced to the sport by a parent or other family member, it’s good to note that there was a big increase from 3.37% two years ago to 9.62% of children who got involved through a club/centre open day or taster session, reflecting the success of the Push the Boat Out and Try Sailing programmes, now re-branded as Discover Sailing.
The ‘word cloud’ below shows what parents see as the key benefits of participation:
40% of parents stated that their child hadn’t had any negative experiences in the last 12 months. Where they had, the main ones were the conflicting demands of participation and school work, inappropriate conduct or language from an adult, a poor experience of race officials or the protest process, or a poor experience of the RYA squad selection or training programme.
The RYA Safeguarding Steering Group is referring matters for action to the appropriate departments or committees, but clubs and class associations also have a role to play in influencing their members and race officials, for example by placing greater emphasis on Codes of Conduct and the RYA Racing Charter.
Over 60% of parents said they had witnessed other parents behaving in a way they believed had a negative impact on their children’s enjoyment and there were several comments about ‘over-competitive’ parents putting too much pressure on their children.
A high proportion of parents (93%) said that their children’s clubs, class associations or training centres had safeguarding policies and procedures, 81% had a designated Welfare officer and 64% had a culture of listening to young people. This is all positive, but a surprising 30% of parents were not sure whether staff or volunteers had completed safeguarding training, and 40% were not sure whether appropriate checks or references had been sought. In some cases this may be because the organisation is taking the right actions but hasn’t communicated this clearly to parents.
67.8% of parents thought their child would know who to speak to if they were unhappy about someone’s behaviour (up from 59.26%) and 91.36% were either fairly or very confident that the organisation had the capability to deal with any concerns appropriately.
Of the suggested further actions the RYA could take to safeguard children, the highest score with 46.48% was ‘communicate more effectively with children and young people’. This is a challenge for all National Governing Bodies which seem very remote to young people; communication is more effectively done at a local level. We would welcome any suggestions or examples from organisations that have found ways of involving and consulting their younger members. We will be publishing new leaflets for young sailors in 2020 and improving the information on our website.
Another suggestion was to 'make the online safeguarding course that DIs have to do available for parents and volunteers’. The RYA’s Safe & Fun online course is already open to anyone, through any of the RYA Recognised Training Centres that offer it. You can find a Training Centre by using the ‘Where’s my nearest?’ feature on the RYA website.
The suggested actions the RYA could take to make the sport more enjoyable for young people included things RYA is already doing or planning to implement (eg. ‘open it up to schools more’ or ‘more regionalised activity’) so we need to make sure we are communicating effectively about our initiatives and programmes such as OnBoard.
There was a comment about lack of mental health support. We are not experts in this area and everyone is aware of the strain on NHS mental health services for young people. However the RYA has taken or is planning a number of actions including: providing information on sources of support in the forthcoming Performance Pathway Handbook; requiring all RYA staff to attend disability awareness and mental health training; providing mental health training to Podium Squad coaches; and developing a mental health awareness resource for instructors, coaches and clubs.
For information and advice on safeguarding, see www.rya.org.uk/go/safeguarding