Friday 22 March 2013
The Creating Chances 2012 report outlines the work the Premier League and the clubs do at the heart of their communities. Here Dr Denise Barrett-Baxendale, the CEO of Everton in the Community, explains about the innovative Everton Free School, one of the many programmes it is carrying out in the community.
Everton is respected for being a club of "firsts". It was the first to place numbers on the back of players’ shirts, the first to construct a purpose-built football stadium and first to install undersoil heating.
Our community programmes are equally pioneering, the award-winning "Imagine Your Goals", for people living with mental health issues, was devised by us and rolled out nationally. In 2012 we were proud to continue that long line of progress and innovation when we became the first Premier League club to open a Free School.
Everton Free School provides alternative provision for young people who are disengaged from education. They may have been excluded, for example. As the incredible impact of our programmes is so well known, our application attracted strong local support and a remarkable level of cross-party political agreement.
"The school was rooted in our history of supporting young people who have not done well in mainstream schooling"
Dr Denise Barrett-Baxendale
So why should a Premier League football club open up an educational establishment? The idea of opening a school was rooted in our history of supporting young people who, for whatever reason, have not done well in mainstream schooling. We were working with young people who had already been out of the job market for several years or had never been in employment, post-16 education or training and although we had great success, we always felt that we should be intervening much earlier.
The Free School movement presented an opportunity to realise that ambition. For us it was a natural progression from our existing work to supporting young people from the ages of 14 to 19 with an intensive education programme.
When the Everton Free School opened in September 2012 it was the culmination of an intensive two years of extraordinary planning and strong partnership working. It is independently chaired and managed but we, the club and the school, work together on a daily basis. It’s a privilege to support and educate young people, but it is also a huge responsibility.
What made our vision so exciting was the curriculum – it could only have been offered in conjunction with a club like Everton.
We have the incredible power of the club behind us to engage young people, but it goes much deeper than the badge. The club’s infrastructure, access to inspirational Everton player-mentors and our community programmes collectively provide the students with authentic learning experiences.
We saw a great example of this when a group of students were tasked with producing a match-day report. Supported by teachers and community staff, they were able to work in Everton’s press box alongside professional journalists and broadcasters. They simply could not get that kind of inspirational learning experience without the school’s direct connection to a Premier League club.
"We have the incredible power of the club behind us to engage young people"
Dr Denise Barrett-Baxendale
We have incredibly high expectations for our students as befits the club’s philosophy of "nil satis nisi optimum" or "nothing but the best", and they are living up to it. They don’t want to jeopardise the opportunity they’ve been given.
In December 2012 we had our first OFSTED appraisal and we did extremely well. When the students met OFSTED they talked about feeling safe, about being supported and respected. They talked about their personalised teaching plans and how people listen to them.
Parents tell us that their young child is changing and that their commitment and attitude to school has been transformed. One parent interviewed by OFSTED said: “This school is here for everybody in the family.”
Families know that they can talk to us about any issue and together we will reach a positive outcome. To have a supportive relationship with the school is invaluable to them.
It is very early days but we are breaking down barriers to learning for young people who were previously in real danger of falling away from education. Many students joined us with an average school attendance rate of 30%, yet our average attendance rate for the first term was 98.2%.
This is an extract of the Creating Chances 2012 report on Everton in the Community. To read more about what the charity does, click here.