This week, England and Manchester United defender Chris Smalling brought his star power to Salford City Academy, to help launch Football Beyond Borders’ (FBB) programme at a number of schools in our North West cluster.
United Learning has been working with FBB for three years in order to bring this partnership to fruition. The education charity aims to improve young people’s engagement in and attitudes towards their learning through the medium of football, supporting them to succeed at school. Founded in London, the event at Salford City Academy marked the charity’s expansion into the North West following successful pilot programmes at The Totteridge Academy and Walthamstow Academy.
As part of the launch, Manchester United’s Chris Smalling was announced as patron for FBB in the region. Salford City Academy played host to six other schools for a special football tournament, including Accrington Academy, The Hyndburn Academy, William Hulme’s Grammar School and Stockport Academy. These schools have recently begun to benefit from the FBB educational programme, with very positive feedback already.
The partnership with FBB is just one of the programmes taking place across United Learning as part of our SITUPS work – school improvement through using the power of sport. The pilot showed strong positive results not only on students’ behaviour and attendance at school but their higher levels of engagement and overall success in their learning.
The FBB partnership work has so far been funded in large part by the generous fundraising activities of students and staff for last year’s RideABC initiative. This saw our Head of Sport Shaun Dowling and Educational Technologist Bruce Wilson cycle an exhausting 600-mile route from Ashford, via Bournemouth, to Carlisle to celebrate the power of sport, dance and physical challenge in our schools. Funds raised from this – contributed by schools right across the Group, many of which were stops along the route – were split 75/25 between Sport Relief and our SITUPS programme.
Shaun Dowling, Head of Sport at United Learning, said of the Group’s partnership work with FBB:
“Through our group-wide SITUPS programme, we look to use sport as a powerful tool for school improvement and to promote key traits like determination, resilience, teamwork and respect that will help our students thrive in school and beyond. This is not only important for improving standards across schools but in delivering an education with character to all our students – something that sport is well placed to support.
“In our pilot programme with Football Beyond Borders, we have already seen some very encouraging results, with marked improvement in students’ attendance, attitudes towards learning and overall behaviour and success in school. We are therefore pleased to be developing our partnership work with FBB to introduce the programme into schools in our North West cluster, like Salford City Academy, so that they can benefit similarly.”
The football tournament was a brilliant example of the benefits of clustering, with students meeting up to share their enjoyment of football as well as their experiences of the FBB programme so far.
Watched on by Chris Smalling, FBB coaches and their teachers, the students played some fierce football and showed off the determination, confidence and teamwork skills they have already gained. As well as developing their athletic abilities on the pitch, they have received additional literacy support and classroom sessions on what makes a great leader and team player.
After the schools faced off against each other on the pitch, everyone moved into the Main Hall for an awards ceremony, with Chris presenting participants with their trophies and certificates. He also took part in a special Q&A with two Salford City Academy students, while other young people delivered demonstrated their increased confidence by making special presentations to the audience about the difference FBB has made to them.
Salford City Academy Principal Mel Haselden said:
“We are so grateful to the team at FBB for offering their services, which have made a real difference to the students taking part in their programme and supports our drive to provide our students with an education with character.
“We have been honoured to host their launch today in front of not only a number of other schools, but also the country’s media and of course Chris Smalling.”