Over the past couple of weeks I have written about new areas that our work has taken us since the Coronavirus has taken over all our lives, but we have also continued with some of our traditional provisions, but delivered them in new ways.
A prime example of this has been our Education programmes, which include our Alternate Education with local secondary schools, our BFC Sports College for BTEC Sport, our Traineeship provision and our Degree in Community Football Coaching and Development.
All these programmes have always focused on face-to-face education delivery, utilising our unique assets, including use of Bloomfield Road, brand new facilities and classrooms and great teaching and coaching, delivered in a more relaxed and less formal nature, but since we have all been in lockdown a lot has had to be adjusted.
Our intentions and end goals haven’t changed but our ways to make sure our students remain engaged have had to and our use of technology has had to really develop, quickly.
In a normal timetable our students will attend classes each day with our teachers, do their coursework on site with mentors and take part in a full practical enrichment programme to help keep them engaged.
However in our current environment we have switched all classes to online portals, including google classrooms and zoom to keep our students engaged and learning.
This has proved difficult for some of our students, who do not have computers and laptops at home, so we have sent more than twenty students home with our devices to use and the vast majority of them continue to engage and enjoy our support.
This method has been used across all our projects as we strive to make sure our pupils maintain some form of normality.
Whilst GCSE and A level exams have been cancelled for this year, our BA Hons, BTEC and NCFE qualifications continue due to most of the work being coursework based, but questions around how we grade our Maths and English functional skills and GCSE resits remain unanswered for us. Whilst we continue to investigate the solution, we have continued to set the students challenges to complete on these subjects and even publish a weekly Maths question for all to complete on our social media and also our poem competition (#Blackpoolrhyme) challenges everyone’s literacy skills.
The big area of BTEC students are missing out is their enrichment programme, which normally includes students undertaking football training every day and playing in the EFL National 11 aside league and Futsal competitions. At the time of lockdown our first team were sitting top of their North West league and the students and staff are hoping they get to complete their season and hopefully win the deserved trophy they have worked so hard to top. We have however tried to keep the players engaged, by sending weekly physical activity challenges and sessions for them to complete at home. It’s not the same as getting out on the grass of 3G, but it’s the best we can do in the circumstances. It may however benefit us in the early restart of games, if the 2m social distancing rules apply, especially on corners.
Our BTEC Sports Coaching students are also obviously missing out on essential work experience, but we can make up these hours, during summer months, once our projects return.
Another thing our BTEC students have missed out on is their trip to Barcelona in June. A large majority of students have been saving and fundraising to enjoy a trip to another area, to see how sport engages communities in the great city and also take part in a host of activities and matches whilst they were there. We are now working with the travel company to reorganise the trip for next year.
Another area that has been dramatically impacted has been the work experience element of our Traineeship provisions. Usually students spend two days a week in a work environment that they would like to potentially progress in the future. Our work and attention in this area of the provision is a main contributor to why we have so much success in getting young people, previously not in any education or employment onto a positive path, with more than 71% of our students progressing following our course.
Whilst businesses are closed down, we have encouraged our learners to volunteer at Community Food Hubs and given them extra employability support skills, so that we can get them into interviews and jobs as soon as the lockdown is relaxed.
We have also put a large focus on ensuring we support the welfare of all our students across all of our education programmes, this includes phone calls to ‘check in’ and have a chat outside of teaching and learning, as well as ensuring they can access all the essentials by informing them of the support available. (maybe include visits but highlight conforming to social distancing rules e.g. dropping of work/food packages)
We have also had some significant success in the past couple of weeks, prior to the lockdown, our pupils on our Alternate Education programme, delivered with five local secondary schools sat their BTEC Tech Award in Sports Studies. 90% of the learners passed the exam at their first attempt. What makes this an even greater success is that the students on this programme are young people who are at significant risk of being excluded from their mainstream schools, so spend a day a week with us at the stadium, on an alternate education delivery path. We have also seen significant changes in their behaviours and attendance back in schools for the other four days too.
This is an area I am very focused on driving the team to expand even further and we have some really exciting plans we hope to share soon.
Whilst all the above explains a little about how we are focusing our attentions on our current students, we are also now looking to the next academic year and recruitment for then. So if you or a young person you know is interested in a career in sport, coaching, teaching or just wants to reengage with education and use football and coaching as a motivation to do so, then please check out our website (www.bfcct.co.uk) to get further information on our BTEC and Degree courses available. No matter what grades you receive this summer, we have a course for you and students not only receive a first class education, in brand new facilities, they receive one-to-one care, smaller classes so additional attention is paid and the opportunity to represent Blackpool FC in the competitions mentioned earlier and first hand work experience, alongside our expert workforce working in the community.