Cambridge Vipers Rugby Academy - 2020 year review

The Vipers Rugby Academy is a full-time rugby educational academy based out of Cambridge Rugby Club in Cambridge. The academy provides educational provision for students aged 16+ who have an interest in bettering their rugby career alongside gaining a BTEC qualification. The rugby is timetabled around their academic work and aims to help each student reach their potential in the classroom and on the rugby pitch. Throughout 2020, our Cambridge and Peterborough team has been supporting players and their families in making informed decisions around potential next steps in both the sports and education arenas. 

Richie Williams, Director of Rugby told us, “The Take Your Place programme has enabled our students to explore the full breadth of what progression to Higher Education can offer. Irrespective of whether students were writing a personal statement, CV or cover letter, neaco’s support was important in helping them develop an understanding of where their skills and passion could take them in the future. This has helped to ensure that when the students complete their level 3 BTEC qualification (External Diploma in Sport), they have the right knowledge and tools to make the best decision for them about what direction they are heading next, whether that’s to university, college or an apprenticeship.”

Ben Penfold, Vipers Coach added, “From our initial consultation, Kate* and the neaco team have been great, helping every student gain a better understanding of their future, from university applications to apprenticeships to future job options. The scheme has massively helped their understanding of university life and the application process, which can be a daunting experience. Each session was bespoke and went above and beyond using different teaching methods to keep students engaged and learning. The interactive sessions were most successful and it was impressive, how students were skilfully placed out of their comfort zone and guided through tasks to help them complete the lesson objectives.

When they started in 2019, some students didn’t really have any aspirations to go to university. It was great to see them with smiles on their faces as they clearly enjoyed the sessions. We’re very proud that 76% of our students have had university offers, which is a great result for us! I think that without the neaco scheme, some of these students would not have had offers.”

As part of the Take Your Place Framework, students are given the opportunity to identify their skills and strengths. Kate McCormack, from neaco worked closely with the players to develop their goals and aspirations, support them in their next steps, helping them to create their own personal brand while reflecting on areas for personal development both now and in the future.

She commented, “It's been a pleasure to work with the club, it has highlighted to us that there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all university student or apprentice. Best of luck to all the students we’ve worked so far in all their future endeavours, both on and off the pitch.”

*Kate McCormack, neaco Higher Education Champion, Anglia Ruskin University (pictured)

Student case study – Harry Holmes (pictured left)

“Kate and the neaco team really helped me with what I wanted to do after Vipers Rugby Academy. I always wanted to go to university when I was younger but had been concerned about the long application process. The neaco sessions helped me with the application process, searching for the right course, student finance and some ideas on the clearing process.

They gave me (and my parents), a better understanding and helped me select my choices and courses. The lessons opened my mind to jobs after college, and I have decided to pursue a career in Strength and Conditioning after college but I did apply for university and got all five offers at some great universities.”

Find out more about joining the Cambridge Vipers BTEC Academy - visit the club website or contact Richie Williams directly via e-mail: