A Birmingham-based activity education and training provider has won a national business award from Lloyds Bank and expert mentoring after navigating one of the toughest periods in its history.
Founded in 2005, Aspire Active Education Group now works with almost 200 schools across the country, providing PE, sport and physical activity support to primary schools to get more children moving. It also delivers apprenticeships through its training arm and supports around 40 children’s physical activity providers with Aspire Active Partnerships, a network of organisations that came to the fore supporting its members during lockdown.
Director Paul Griffiths said: “We exist to combat inactivity among children and predominantly work with primary schools. When the pandemic hit and schools closed, we pivoted operations to offer more business support to our Aspire Active Partnerships network. This involved webinars, resources, peer support group sessions and weekly huddles, and creating an online forum where the owners of these like-minded organisations could share challenges and good practice.
“Running a small business can be a lonely place at times and that was especially true during the first lockdown. But the network has become a close-knit community and we have now evolved that side of the business into an ongoing support system, all with the aim of getting more children engaged in activity.”
An increase in screen time and more pressure in schools on academic subjects like English and maths has led to less physical activity and education among children, something that was highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic. A survey by Sport England found that the number of children and young people in the country who were physically active fell during the 2019/20 academic year.
Paul and the rest of Aspire’s 44-strong team have relished being able to operate again in recent months, with delivery including running the government-funded cycle training programme, Bikeability, and, most recently, working with 16 schools and more than 10,000 children throughout the summer as part of the Marcus Rashford-backed Holiday Activities and Food initiative.
Now, Aspire Active Education Group has been named a winner in the Lloyds Bank Small Business of 2021 awards, which celebrate businesses across the UK. The prize is a mentoring session with Dominic Cools-Lartigue, founder of pop-up food market Street Feast. Dominic will provide insight and support to help Aspire to continue to grow the business in the year ahead.
Paul said: “This kind of recognition is very much welcomed. I’m really proud of every member of the team for their constant hard work and dedication, especially during such unprecedented times. It’s been a busy summer and we can’t wait to get back into schools properly at the start of the new academic year.”
Gareth Oakley, managing director of business banking at Lloyds Bank, added: “Aspire provides a vital service to schools and children in the West Midlands, and to similar organisations further afield. It has shown great determination and adaptability during a challenging time and is a worthy recipient of this award.”