‘Birmingham Connect’ will use the power of sport, and excitement of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, to promote social integration of young people aged 11-13 years from diverse and segregated communities in Birmingham.

The project, led by the Youth Sport Trust in partnership with Team England will bring together 20 city schools and will see young people paired with students in other schools across the city to help them connect through sport.

Pairing schools across Birmingham will encourage meaningful social mixing to improve attitudes and perceptions held of people from different backgrounds; driven by young people who will catalyse change.

In our partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, we want to engage schools and young people to encourage a local identity and sense of belonging across Birmingham; focus on what people have in common; build understanding and mutual trust; change perceptions, attitudes and behaviours; focus on integration, inclusion and interaction; and ensure participating children and young people, teachers and families have fun trying different sporting and cultural activity.

We believe this will drive significant positive change on the longer-term integration of schools and communities across the city – resulting in a legacy of learning, participation, connection and pride.

The year-long programme aims to improve social mixing and build young people’s understanding of different communities. It will particularly focus on tackling segregation of young people of different ethnicities, who come from areas of deprivation or who have a disability.

The project is being run by the Youth Sport Trust in partnership with the English Commonwealth Games team, Team England. Birmingham Connect has received funding from Sport England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as part of the Integrated Communities Innovation Fund (ICIF). It is being delivered with support from Inspire Activity Ltd, Culture Central and Birmingham Education Partnership.

Commonwealth Games England Chief Executive, Paul Blanchard, said:

“We’re delighted to be working with the Youth Sport Trust to deliver the Birmingham Connect project, which we hope will leave a lasting legacy beyond the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games to promote social integration among young people across the city and enable them to become better connected. We’re looking forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on the schools, children and communities involved.”

Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, Ali Oliver, said:

“Sport has such power to bring people together and break down barriers. The staging of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham offers a really exciting opportunity to engage young people in something which harnesses that unifying power of sport.

“Through Birmingham Connect, young people will be given the opportunity to connect with others who go to schools elsewhere in the city but are living completely different lives. This project is all about empowering young people to tackle some of the unnecessary and unwanted social barriers that can exist between young people due to ethnicity, socio-economic status or disability.

“It’s a timely reminder of the important and powerful role sport can play in school life, fostering inclusive environments, building connections between schools, and developing empathy and trust among young people.”

Over the next year, pairs of schools will work together to give students the opportunity to mix with young people from different backgrounds. Schools chosen to take part have been identified as being highly segregated, either through ethnicity, deprivation of disability.

100 young people recruited across the 20 schools will be trained as Connectors to lead the project for their school, with support from teachers.

Every school will receive inspirational assemblies and training and will then plan and organise four sporting events with their partner schools.

The project will culminate in a large-scale sporting festival next summer which will bring together all of the schools involved as well as friends and family.