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Sport & Thought

In early 2016, Prevista’s delivery partner Sport & Thought, began delivering their Football as Therapy course at the Globe Academy School in Southwark.

Prevista engaged Sport & Thought as a delivery partner on our DWP Youth Engagement Fund project, which supports young people aged 14-17 to improve their attitude, behaviour and attendance, as well as developing soft skills and sector specific competencies to enter the world of work or further/higher education. Sport & Thought is one of ten innovative grassroots providers who deliver this project, allowing us to refer young people to courses that most suit their interests and needs.

Sport & Thought sessions in Globe Academy were made up of 1 hour of ‘football therapy’ before school. The referred cohort were the year 11 students identified as being most at risk of becoming NEET, whether through lack of future planning, social issues outside school, or a severe projected underachievement at GCSE.

These hour-long sessions engaged the group in activities that challenged their problem solving, creativity, anxieties and how they dealt with difficult situations. Though structured as a typical football session, the practices were delivered with a spin to encourage introspective thought and open discussion. Sessions were frequently stopped to prompt this.

The year was not without its challenges; a number of the original cohort took time to get used to the idea of talking and sharing ideas and experiences. However, the vast majority took the programme in their stride. Despite the 7:30am start, attendance numbers regularly exceeded 12 (out of an original cohort of 18). Within 2 weeks, a core section of the group had asked their senior teachers if they could have a session before every morning of school, as opposed to once a week.

The delivery model followed Sport and Thought’s unique methodology. Football was used as both a metaphor and a symbol to measure behaviour against. After early sessions, negative behaviours exhibited by the cohort (aggression, lack of effort, verbal abuse) were addressed in a sporting context. The question was then posed to the cohort of how acceptable these types of behaviour are outside the context of sport, if they are not allowed in the confines of the game.

Senior school staff regularly observed the sessions and commented on how well committed and enthused the boys seemed. Unfortunately though, this was in contrast to their other school conduct. The sessions therefore became a space for us, as a group, to focus on how to navigate a school day, how to match behaviour on the field to the required standards off it and how constantly to assess and improve performance on and off the pitch.

All boys who were engaged in the programme made it through year 11 without exclusion and went on to sit their GCSEs. The majority have achieved conditional college offers. Those without post-16 plans are being supported through Sport and Thought’s post-programme support activity and are receiving one-to-one support around apprenticeships and job applications to ensure they do not become NEET.

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