Peckham students enjoy spectacular Academy week
Ten students from Harris Academy Peckham in South London have become the first to take part in the Riding A Dream Academy’s Regional Week, held at Epsom Downs Racecourse, home to the world-famous Derby.
The Regional Week is being rolled out thanks to funding from The Racing Foundation and is an extension to the Academy’s existing programmes. It is designed to broaden access to horses and the racing world by taking the Academy out to communities and schools and is aimed at young people aged 14-18.
During the week the Year 10 students from Peckham South London, none of whom had any experience of racing or working with horses, had the chance to ride for the first time and look after five horses from the British Racing School. They also visited Pat Phelan’s racing yard, undertook media training with ITV’s Oli Bell and learned about the history of Epsom Downs and The Derby’s status as the world’s most prestigious flat race.
Charlotte Evans, Assistant Principal at Harris Academy Peckham said, “Our students have had a spectacular week at Epsom racecourse as part of the Riding A Dream Academy. It has been truly wonderful to see their confidence grow, see them step out of their comfort zone, and take part with them on a journey which has ultimately broadened their horizons. The beauty, majesty and therapeutic impact of horses is something so often not experienced when living in an inner city, and we are very pleased that we have been able to expand our students’ experiences through the people they met this week, the places they were able to visit and experience that will stay with them for a lifetime. We have all been made to feel very welcome and I hope this is a programme that we will continue to be able to offer our students in the future.”
Khadijah Mellah, in whose name the Academy was set up after she became the first British Muslim woman to win a UK horse race said, “It has been so great to have Harris Academy Peckham with us for our first ever Riding A Dream Academy Regional Week. Peckham is where I grew up so it seemed only right that a school from there was part of this new initiative for the Academy. It has been great to see the students bond with the horses and find out that, no matter where you come from, there is a place for everyone within racing.
“We are incredibly grateful to Epsom Downs and Jockey Club Catering who have been so generous in allowing us to use their amazing facilities throughout the week and looking after us. We have been so privileged to have been able to teach young people to ride for the first time ever at the home of the world’s most famous flat race.”
Jennifer Loomes, Head of Diversity at The Jockey Club said, “It has been a pleasure to host the Riding A Dream Academy and Harris Academy at Epsom Downs this week. At The Jockey Club we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure racing is a sport where everyone feels welcome, and weeks such as this are a huge part of creating that initial love of the horse and seeing what a fantastic industry racing has to offer.”
The Riding A Dream Academy was set up after Khadijah Mellah made history by becoming the first British Muslim woman to win a UK horse race. Kindly funded by the Racing Foundation it supports young people from diverse communities and disadvantaged backgrounds to get into racing. In its pilot year (2021-22) 74% of its students came from a diverse ethnic background.