Students and staff at Theale Green School have been ditching the winter blues and building up their fitness and mental health in a new gym, thanks to an allocation of funding received via Get Berkshire Active.

The gym, which was installed late August, has now become a firm part of the PE curriculum with the plan being to open it up for community use. TGS students are loving the opportunity to train indoors on fantastic new fitness equipment, with a whole room dedicated to rowing. ‘The Fitness Zone’ has 20 rowing machines, running machines, static bikes and other training equipment, such as sandbags and medicine balls.

Students have been using the gym as part of their PE curriculum since September and according to gym manager Crystal Campbell, the reaction has been amazing, with students building up their fitness on the equipment.  “I am loving this opportunity to see the students grow not just physically but also mentally through the use of the gym,” she said.

Charlotte Badarello, Head of School, is clear on the importance of sport for young people. “Current research fully supports the direct link between physical activity and cognitive ability, alongside improved mental wellbeing. I am so pleased that our students have a state-of-the-art facility that allows them to explore their wellbeing journey – it is a legacy for future generations to use.”

While the younger students use the gym in the school day only, Sixth Formers can use it for free during their enrichment time, and staff are seeing the benefit too, with special Friday night dedicated sessions for them.

The gym really fits into the school’s overall philosophy, which puts health and wellbeing at the very top of its list. The school has been lauded for its dedication to sport both in the curriculum and in after school activities with its connection with the Youth Sports Trust. Last year the school was again awarded the Platinum School Games Platinum Mark, a government recognition of its commitment to PE.

The amazing gym facility came about thanks to a successful application to the Opening Schools Facilities (OSF) fund, which is overseen locally by Get Berkshire Active.

Jo Halliday, who was Executive Principal of at the school at the time of bidding for the funding explained: “We were really lucky to be able to apply. As a school we had long thought about how we can develop our sports facilities, because sport is so important to us. The immediate thing that we felt we could do was convert and build on some existing space, rather than trying to start with any new development.

“The OSF funding, which is split over three years, is very clear about what you can and can’t apply for so we knew we could apply for the equipment and staff training, and our trust (Activate Learning Education Trust) supported us and the changes we needed to the building.

“What you see in the gym now is the end result of our funding application for year one, and the school is looking forward to working with Get Berkshire Active again in years two and three.”

Theale Green’s staff are loving having the gym literally on their doorstep and none more so than gym manager – and former TGS pupil – Crystal Campbell, who has undergone a personal trainer (PT) instruction course so that she can lead gym users safely through their workouts. Crystal jumped at the chance to run the gym, having always been sporty herself – she played every sport and fixture while a student, and helped with the young ambassadors’ events and was a West Berkshire Sports Mentor too.

There are lots of plans afoot to make the most of this incredible new facility, with the ultimate aim being to open it out for community use, with external fitness instructors running classes from it. The gym is currently being used by a group of women aimed at improving wellbeing and reduce symptoms of menopause.

What do the students have to say? Year 8’s April Rhys, who is a black belt in kickboxing, says she really enjoys using the equipment. “It’s made PE more fun and I enjoy being able to compete against my friends, and play the competitive games on the rowing machines.”

Super sporty Asa Snoxall rows to a high standard outside of school for Reading, as well as playing rugby for Reading Abbey. He thinks the gym is great for the students – whether they are sporty or not – “You can work on technical practices and work to your own level, whatever that may be and see yourself improve.”

Bendeguz Gratz, Year 9, also plays rugby and rows, and he says the gym gives him ‘amazing PE lessons’. “The rowing machines allow you to raise your technique and get better, and it’s really fun which makes you want to work harder.”

Director of Sport and PE Tony Blinco summarises: “As a school, we place great emphasis on physical fitness and health and know the positive impact this has on mental wellbeing. We believe in the power school sport has to give opportunities to those young people that need it most. Our Fitness Zone provides these exciting new opportunities for students, staff and the community.”