#StillStandingFree Blog #4 – Robbie Hedderman
One of the most prosperous regions in the UK, with a higher than average GDP, Aberdeen City and Shire’s surface prosperity overshadows the ever-widening gap between its richest and its poorest.
Sadly, as the areas of deprivation grow, so too do the levels of disadvantage and therefore attainment, particularly among our region’s children.
For many in our city region, it’s hard to believe that some children go to school with no food in their tummies and no shoes on their feet. Some don’t even turn up for school or their attendance is sparse and erratic.
Regrettably, Aberdeen FC Community Trust sees first-hand the impact that behavioural, social and emotional barriers have on our young people. The Trust works with schools, breakfast clubs, after school and community clubs across the region to re-engage pupils in education through the passion for football and the power of the AFC brand.
It’s widely acknowledged that football, more than any other sport, has the power to inspire young people. Our experienced coaches go into schools to work with kids who have been identified as requiring additional sport. By capturing their attention through a range of football-related activities, we can encourage them to attend classes, turn up on time, learn how to cope with any behavioural or emotional issues and teach them invaluable life skills such as team-working and communication.
The link to the Club, whose players are role models for many of these children and their parents, is what differentiates the Trust.
In the last two years, AFCCT has worked successfully with over 14,000 children through 23 schools and other education projects to reduce absenteeism and lateness, improve pupil health and well-being and support their behavioural, emotional and social needs to raise attainment.
The results of the Trust’s education programme were a key factor in Aberdeen Football Club being recognised by UEFA as Best Professional Club in their Grassroots Awards 2019.
Education is at the heart of our mission, intrinsically linked to its healthy communities and football for life programmes. Last year, the Trust reported that for every £1 invested in football participation in the region, there is a £10 cumulative economic, social and public health return.
As a result of our success, an increasing number of schools are signing up for the Dons through our partner schools programme.
These schools have recognised the impact AFCCT can have on closing the poverty related attainment gap in education and are partnering with the Trust to deliver health and wellbeing interventions with children who require behavioural, emotional and social support.
Head Teachers across Aberdeen are empowered to invest Pupil Equity Funding to provide additional support to their pupils. Our partner schools programme is well positioned to support schools and headteachers have seen first-hand the influence and positive impact we can have on individual pupils which, in turn, supports their teachers and their school’s attainment levels.
The Trust will be announcing more school signings this month to ensure the programmes are ready to kick-off after the summer.