The Centre for Justice Innovation visited Boxing Clever on October 19 2022 to speak to the founders of the project and witness a session in action.
Background: New Bradwell Youth Boxing Club
Boxing Clever was inspired by the New Bradwell Youth Boxing Club, which was established by PC Adrian Cafe with young people after youth clubs in the area closed down.
This project, funded by the parish council, Thames Valley Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner, was free for all. PC Cafe reports that it ultimately contributed to a 54% reduction in antisocial behaviour in the area.
Boxing Clever 2022
Boxing Clever is an early intervention and prevention programme. It was set up as a Community Interest Company after PC Cafe feared having to shut down the project.
It uses boxing sessions, followed by personal development sessions, to help young people develop key social and emotional skills. These include discipline, self esteem and resilience, which better equip them to manage life challenges and positively impact on their interactions with their peers, school, family and community. It is based on the premise that this kind of programme can be effective in reducing antisocial or violent behaviour by improving young people’s health and wellbeing, educational attainment and social/economic situations.
Alongside qualified coaches who are passionate about boxing, passing on their dedication and acting as role models, students also have access to a purpose-built gym with equipment. On top of this, Boxing Clever provides signposting to other services, tailored educational workshops and 1-to-1 sessions.
Boxing Clever works in partnership with Thames Valley Police, Milton Keynes Youth Information Service, NWG, Fearless (Crimestoppers) and Milton Keynes Council, amongst others. It maintains close links to schools, parents and local police.
Why Milton Keynes?
Nine areas within Milton Keynes are in the top 10% of the most deprived areas in the country and the number of children in absolute low-income families is almost 10% higher than the national average. Youth unemployment (18-24) is over double the national average. Life expectancy is 6 years less than the local/national average and obesity amongst children (year 6) is 6% above the national average. Boxing Clever aims to address the knock-on effects of these issues on the young people they work with and reduce the risk of criminal exploitation.
Young people are referred by schools and other local partnerships if they are at risk of offending, have adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), are disengaged in social/educational settings, are at risk of gang culture and are known to the police.
The young people are generally grouped according to school cohort and are accompanied to sessions by a school pastoral representative/teacher.
Boxing Clever is a 12-week programme based around the school term, culminating in an end of term Boxing Show. The boxing sessions are run by Head Coach Kevin McCarthy from Bletchley ABC and his team. Before starting on the programme, students must sign an Acceptable Behaviour Contract.
The first half of term sees young people engaging in weekly two-hour sessions: one hour-long session with England Boxing coaches, followed by an hour-long ‘clubroom’ session with guest speakers to learn about and discuss topics including mental health, crime, careers, team building, lived experience (including PTSD and recovery and emotional awareness), food bank visits and inspirational talks.
The second half of term continues with the boxing and clubroom sessions, whilst also providing opportunities for the students to train with other members and preparing for an end-of-term boxing show. Further, the students create a team video showcasing their new skills. Once the programme finishes, the young people can continue to train in non-contact evening sessions free of charge.
When a young person is inspired to want to compete, it is at this stage that they will be invited to attend the volunteer-run Bletchley Amateur Boxing Club, where they can further their skills, start sparring with other boxers and compete at amateur level. Young people have the opportunity to travel to compete all over the UK and internationally.
Boxing Clever evaluates its outcomes across five areas: young people (better community awareness, access to help and support and increased discipline, self-esteem, respect), schools (improved school attendance, increased positive behaviour points, increased parental and pupil engagement with schools, lowered contextual safeguarding risk in Milton Keynes), local community (reduction in antisocial behaviour, decrease in young people’s engagement with the police), health and wellbeing (improved fitness, mental health and wellbeing) and families (positive behaviour changes at home and improved relationships).
The project evaluates its impact using tools such as monitored progress and reporting, testimonials from schools and parents/guardians, surveys from participants, case studies, quantitative data from schools (including attendance levels and behaviour points) and post-three and post-six month reviews.
Boxing Clever is trademarked which enables it to licence other businesses to adopt their model: another Boxing Clever is due to open in Amersham and there are plans to expand further. They are also aiming to launch an inclusive boxing hub, for which they are partnering with local charities, schools, and organisations to hold weekly inclusive sessions for our SEND community. Finally, they will also launch community-based boxing sessions and a referral scheme for children who are not suitable for the early intervention programme but may still benefit from boxing sessions.
Boxing Clever launched on September 14 2022 for its first 12-week programme. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For a similar project in Wales, see our case study on Right Hook.
Case study by Isabella Anderson, 2022.