Ignatius Learning Centre students practice drills during weekly boxing class

Ignatius Learning Centre students wrap their hands before boxing class.  Teacher Nick Porter describes this as a “beautiful moment”. “It is a calming place – a time to clear their heads and set goals for  the session.“

The Ignatius Learning Centre is a small Catholic specialist secondary school for boys aged 15-17 who are in contact with the criminal justice system. Jesuit Social Services opened the school in 2021 to help these boys get their lives on track. For young people who’ve spent time in detention, staying motivated to go to school and paying attention in class can be a challenge, but out-of-the-box approaches can have a surprising impact.

“Full-time schooling can be a stretch for our students, but we’ve actually seen a huge improvement in school attendance by offering activities like the boxing classes,”

Nick Porter

Teacher - Ignatius Learning Centre

Boxing has a range of benefits that might not be appreciated at first. It can increase discipline, focus and self-confidence, and help the boxers to process their emotions.

The idea for the classes came from the students themselves. They participate in a personal development unit, which allows them to pursue a goal outside of work and study as part of the school’s curriculum.

Nick worked with students to land on a goal they were passionate about. He says giving students agency in how they spend their time pays off.

“We’ve got so much more buy-in from the students now and we’ve noticed it trickle into our literacy and numeracy classes too,” Nick says.

“The boxing program teaches attention to detail, discipline and emotional regulation - all qualities that we are starting to see them apply in the classroom in other subjects and with their fellow peers and teachers.”

Nick Porter

Teacher - Ignatius Learning Centre

At the Ignatius Learning Centre, teachers weave the students’ interests into their classes. They might encourage them to research their favourite boxers or investigate their own boxing statistics.

The classes have even sparked career aspirations.

“A couple of weeks ago, some pro fighters came to train at the same gym where our students attend their classes. Each boxer did a twelve round, three-minute spar – a huge amount of sweat, focus and professionalism.  Our boys sat there watching like, ‘Oh my God, look at this’. They started to see boxing and coaching as a work-related skill.

“Amazingly, one of our students has now decided he wants to join the amateur boxing circuit, and he’s attending the boxing gym multiple times a week, including on the weekend.”

Nick is excited to see the impact of these classes go far beyond increased fitness and ability.

“I think the boxing program is the best thing I’ve been involved with in my one year at the Ignatius Learning Centre,” Nick says.