Thomas Hutching is dedicated to using his platform as Rugby Victoria Teachers Ambassador to grow rugby throughout Victoria’s special needs schools.
The Physical Education Teacher at Emerson School in Dandenong is creating unheralded waves to make the game more accessible and engaging with his special needs students.
The specialist school's partnership with the Victorian Government's 'Sporting Schools' program is designed to help increase children's participation in sport and connect them with community sport opportunities.
Mr Hutching leads a group of two PE teachers and three sport ESO’s (Education Support Officers) who take students through an individual sport for four weeks blocks. The school’s rugby program incorporates an early focus on skills development followed by game sense and play.
“We’ve been lucky enough to have Rugby Victoria coming in for six to eight sessions per term, right across the school working with different age groups,” he said.
“The sessions run by Rugby Victoria coaches gives us teachers a great opportunity to up-skill and take learnings away that we can use in our own classes.”
Emerson School is a P-12 school for students with disabilities with over 400 students across two campuses. The school competed in a Rugby Victoria Gala Day in 2019, which remains the highlight of Mr Hutching’s rugby program.
“Although we weren’t at the level that the other schools were, for our students to experience playing a competitive match, and watch on the other games, was a fantastic learning experience for them,” he said.
“The day was really well run and provided inspiration for our kids. It’s a shame we haven’t been able to get back to that level. I believe if we can keep developing our program and continue to grow the skills of our students, then we can compete in another Gala Day soon.”
“However, our ultimately goal is to involve other special schools to play a Rugby 7s exhibition match and tournament.”
The Teachers Ambassador program recognises the teachers who support the delivery of rugby in our Victorian schools to grow and develop our great game. Growing up in New Zealand, Mr Hutching played rugby union for Suburbs in Aucklands under 85kg league.
He is now passionate about ensuring all students have the ability to play the game he loves.
“We’ve got a lot of students with a Pasifika or New Zealand background with a real interest in rugby,” he said.
“For us as a sport, it’s a really great thing for the students to engage with.”
“I’m passionate about the game and love seeing kids out there with a rugby ball in hand at lunchtime.”
“I really want to grow the sport throughout the special schools.”
“We have quite a good relationship with all the southern special schools with competing in other sports throughout the year. To get in rugby in there would be a big goal. The kids love the game. It’s a fun, active thing, and it’s great to see for me.
The Teachers Ambassador program is designed to provide best practice, content, support and information for those advocating for Rugby Union within schools.
“It’s been amazing,” Mr Hutching said.
“I had a great experience to meet the other ambassadors at a Melbourne Rebels game at AAMI Park this season.”
“I feel lucky to be in this position at Emerson.”
“I love seeing the kids be active and engaged. The kids love us bringing in outside organisations and the coaches bring a really positive, upbeat session.
“To see the kids engaging with that is the biggest reward.”
In 2019, Mr Hutching took a group of his rugby students to a live Friday night Melbourne Rebels vs Waikato Chiefs match at AAMI Park. He believes the opportunity provided priceless exposure for his students to see rugby up close.
“It was a fantastic Friday night excursion,” he said.
“Going out to see live rugby really sparked our kids.”
“It was around the build-up heading towards our Gala day. It really sparked their interest levels.”
Mr Hutching holds a clear vision for the future of Emerson School’s rugby program.
“Our ideal goal is to have the sport ingrained in our school and continue to grow it. We are targeting a lot of junior classes to gain even more interest.”
“We plan to keep building our relationship with Rugby Victoria - the students love engaging with Rugby Victoria’s accredited coaches from the outside community.
“It’s great for them to have that interaction.”
For more information on the Teacher Ambassador Program being run through Rugby Victoria in partnership with the Melbourne Rebels, get in contact with Game Development Manager Samantha Homewood via email at Samantha.email@example.com