Three cheers for Tayla, Hillview’s inspirational sports teacher

The Mead School in Tunbridge Wells gave a professional level performance in the  ISA drama contests

TAYLA STRUDWICK of Hillview School in Tonbridge has seen her dedication and hard work recognised with an award for Best Sports Teacher in Kent.

Tayla has been an inspirational figure at the girls’ school, where she has set up a popular and hugely successful cheerleading programme.

‘It was such an honour to even be nominated for the award, as nominations come directly from the students,’ said Tayla. ‘Everything I do at Hillview is to ensure the students get the most out of their school life and have as many opportunities as I can give them.

‘To know that pupils appreciate what I do and see me in such a positive way is truly touching and makes all the long hours worthwhile.’

She has been credited with encouraging girls to take part in sport, regardless of shape, size or ability – and ‘cheer’ has been an important example of this inclusiveness.

In March the Hillstars were crowned school cheerleading team of the year after attending the National Championships in Telford.

Tayla took five teams to the event and none of them was beaten by another school. They came back with three first places and two runners-up spots – and that was only because Hillview had two teams in the same division so they beat each other.

She has taught at the school since 2012, having been a cheerleader herself as a student. It was the specialised subject of her dissertation at Brighton University. ‘I feel physical activity is so important for young people and unfortunately it isn’t quite the same as it was when I was growing up,’ Tayla told the Times.

‘It used to be that being sporty was a good thing and competition to get into teams was high. Unfortunately it isn’t quite the case now and many schools struggle to get teams together.’

That’s certainly not a problem at Hillview; more than 200 students auditioned to be part of the cheerleading squads.

‘We do our upmost to ensure sport is fun and engaging,’ said Tayla, who believes that sport is becoming more popular and fashionable among girls.

Historically boys have been more active in games but women in sport now have a much higher profile thanks to government initiatives and interest in the media.

‘Girls are now seeing more and more role models in sport, which is fantastic and we have had numerous students go on to study sporting degrees and courses at college and universities.’

Hillview was Tayla’s first teaching job and she has ‘never looked back’: ‘The opportunities and achievements I have experienced since being at Hillview have been extraordinary.

‘The cheerleading groups have grown each year and are certainly one of my biggest achievements since my teaching career began.

‘We have such a range of year groups involved and it’s so nice when I hear that the sixth formers and younger students often meet up for lunches and social events.’

Cheerleading neatly fits the performing arts ethos of Hillview while also offering a fitness angle, and the school is blazing a trail that others may follow.

‘I feel it completely sets us apart from other schools as it gives so many of our pupils the chance to train hard and compete, not only nationally but internationally. It’s not something that other schools in the area offer.’

It is not only glamorous but also demanding in different ways, requiring strength and stamina, agility, coordination and close teamwork to perform the acrobatic ‘stunt’ skills.

Hillview have competed against other European teams at Disneyland in Paris – and were even invited to take part in the parade through the park.

In April they performed at the London Marathon, supporting the athletes who ran on behalf of the NSPCC, stunting in front of Buckingham Palace.

They have already been asked back next year, and a spokesman for the children’s charity said: ‘The crowds on the Mall were all looking over. They were all absolutely incredible and full of energy and enthusiasm.’

Hillview’s spokesperson Charlotte Pope said: ‘Tayla has provided fantastic opportunities here for our students through her cheerleading squads.

‘Her boundless energy and enthusiasm throughout the school day, after-school clubs and during the weekend competitions are contagious. As such, her students always give her 100 per cent pure commitment.’

PICTURE: LEADING LIGHT: Tayla Strudwick with her five teams at the National Cheerleading Championships

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter