Meet the teacher who has put rugby refereeing on his school’s curriculum - Ruck

Meet the teacher who has put rugby refereeing on his school’s curriculum

Jonny Cartwright is keen to get more pupils taking up the whistle

When 10-year-old Arthur Cripps discovered his heart condition would prevent him from playing contact sports, he went straight to his sports teacher, Jonny Cartwright for advice.

A rugby coach and referee for 15 years, Jonny noticed Arthur’s passion to remain involved in the sport and suggested refereeing as a potential route.

Jonny, or Mr Cartwright to his pupils, is a Year 6 teacher and Head of Boys’ Games at Cheadle Hulme Junior School.

He combined his skills as a teacher, and rugby refereeing experience to create a one-of-a-kind curriculum for Arthur.

“When Arthur approached me, I knew there was definitely something we could do to help him stay involved in rugby,” said Jonny.

“I decided I would write a programme specifically for him based on what I knew he could do and what I wanted him to learn next.

“There wasn’t a training programme out there for young referees like Arthur, so I had to create one from scratch.”

A testament to Jonny’s knowledge and understanding of the game, the referee programme Jonny created, dovetailed in with the wider curriculum allowing Arthur to learn alongside his classmates during lessons.

The resulting training plan allows Arthur to grow and develop his refereeing skills whilst broadening his experience across the whole game.

Jonny added: “When I do a scrummaging session and the players are learning about body position, Arthur will be learning about tone of voice, clarity and speed of commands; when it’s a lesson about tackle technique, Arthur finds out about tackle laws and field position – and so on.”

Arthur’s plan is to stay at Cheadle Hulme School until Year 12 or 13, like his older brother and sister. He is keen to spread the message about refereeing to his peers, encouraging them to consider it as a potential way into the sport, whether they have a medical condition or not.

“My whole family loves rugby and I was sad that my heart condition stopped me from playing it, said Arthur.

“It’s been amazing having Mr C helping me get into refereeing and there have been so many opportunities for me because of it that I didn’t expect and it’s exciting.”

While Jonny thinks it would be brilliant to introduce rugby refereeing to the whole school curriculum at Cheadle Hulme School, he is also mindful that forcing it onto pupils might actually put them off, rather than encourage them.

“For Arthur it worked really well because he was the one to express initial interest,” said Jonny.

“Now we have the structure in place, I know we can adapt it for any pupil and my hope would be that pupils look at Arthur and feel inspired enough to want to try refereeing for themselves.

“If that happened, I would grab the bull by the horns and run with it because the plans are there and ready to support anyone else who is keen to give it a go.”

Jonny is really passionate about rugby and attributes the best things in his life to the sport, including meeting his wife and getting into teaching.

“I want more people to have access to the positivity of rugby and if we don’t offer refereeing as an option then pupils won’t know what they’re missing out on.

“It’s definitely worth considering making it a more formal pathway in the curriculum, but they need to have a spark and desire to do it, like Arthur does.”

Jonny’s story has captured the imagination of the team at ACME Whistles who think that other schools might want to consider following in his footsteps.

Ben McFarlane, marketing director at ACME Whistles, said; “We think Jonny is such an inspiration and Arthur’s journey as a referee has gone from strength to strength because of the shared passion that these two have.

“There’s not currently anything like it on offer for people of Arthur’s age so it is great to hear about Jonny’s initiative in such a unique circumstance.

“We hope to work with Mr C to share some of his plans so that other schools can also consider introducing refereeing into their curriculum.”

For more information on ACME Whistles, visit