My job

Backing a winner: my new career as a nurse at the British Racing School

Nurse Sharon Mott took on a challenge in agreeing to create a role where she is responsible for the health and well-being of young would-be jockeys and grooms at a horse racing school

Nurse Sharon Mott took on a challenge in agreeing to create a role where she is responsible for the health and well-being of young would-be jockeys and grooms at a horse racing school 

Picture of nurse Sharon Mott with a horse at the British Racing School. She took on a challenge in agreeing to create a role in which she is responsible for health and well-being of young would-be jockeys and grooms at the school.
Sharon Mott at the British Racing School in Newmarket

I had to step outside my comfort zone when I was offered the job of specialist community public health school nurse to the British Racing School. It is a new role for the school and for the UK horse racing industry – the only other example we know of is in South Africa.

The British Racing School is a charitable trust based in Newmarket, Suffolk. Established in 1983, it is an independent training provider and centre of excellence, with purpose-built facilities for training in the racing industry.

It provides a range of residential courses and opportunities to young people aged 16-22 to prepare them for a career in racing, and trainees are guaranteed work placements with racehorse trainers all over the UK.

School awarded an outstanding OFSTED rating

The school is setting the standard for the horse racing industry by taking health and well-being seriously, recognising that all aspects of the health spectrum are connected and play a pivotal role in achieving positive outcomes for young people. This year the school was awarded outstanding status by OFSTED.

Leaving the NHS after 30 years was daunting. I had no experience working with horses or the industry, and the school was relying on me to develop a service from scratch when I was appointed in 2018.

Picture of nurse Sharon Mott with trainee jockeys and grooms at the British Racing School. She took on a challenge in agreeing to create a role in which she is responsible for the health and well-being of the trainees.
Sharon Mott with trainees at the British Racing School 

Reflecting on my professional background and having a blank template, I have been able to develop a bespoke school nursing service focusing on early identification and intervention, as well as holistic care, encompassing all aspects of health promotion and education.

The service is founded on evidence-based guidance from government health policy and professional organisations.

Supporting physical, emotional, mental health and well-being via drop-in sessions through what school nurses call a listening ear service, I work with the safeguarding team and other staff at the racing school to build resilience in the trainees as they transition to independent living and provide them with the skills they need to achieve their dreams.

‘I can see I am making a difference, no matter how small’

For the first time in many years I have a specific space to deliver the service I provide – it is a temporary building, but is a warm, comfortable and safe space for the young people to drop in.

Safeguarding training covers more topics

Listening to the voices of young people is integral to the role of the school nurse, and research indicates that young people want their school nurse to be visible.

My days starts at 7am, when I go to the yard as the trainees begin their working and training day. No matter what the weather – rain, snow or sunshine – I am there to wish them good morning with a smile. My day rarely ends at 3pm.

Picture shows a line of horses and riders alongside a fence, the green of the racing course contrasting with a clear blue sky. Nurse Sharon Mott is responsible for the health and well-being of young would-be jockeys and grooms at a horse racing school.

Historically, the racing industry is driven by authoritarian views and some staff struggled to understand my role, but things are changing.

Training has been delivered and is ongoing from the County Inclusion Support Service. Safeguarding training covers topics that were not discussed previously.

A planning board has been adapted to colour coordinate groups and horses so that those with additional learning needs can relate to and process information. We are looking at mindfulness, well-being and alternative fitness classes, such as pilates, which is to be included in the curriculum.

Importance of health after leaving school and starting apprenticeship

I promote health and signpost young people to services, explaining the importance of health and of registering with a GP and dentist when they leave school and move into their apprenticeship.

However, I believe the most valuable part of my role is being able to offer our young trainees a non-judgemental, calm, confidential, safe place to express their thoughts and feelings. I aim to offer them the time to reflect and learn from their own experiences, and to process these thoughts to identify barriers or challenges they may face as they transition into independent adulthood.

The decision to face a new challenge has paid off. I can see I am making a difference, no matter how small.


Sharon Mott is specialist community public health school nurse to the British Racing School

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