During the past two years the Vale Academy has implemented a number of initiatives in partnership with HMYOI Prison for Juvenile Boys in Werrington, with the objective of providing educational and aspirational activities for various groups of the boys aged 15-18.
To date the Academy has arranged work experience for boys who are nearing the end of their sentence, provided gifts and books for inmates at Christmas time and donated football strips for in-house matches.
For a young offender from a disadvantaged background, the chance to play football and be part of a team, can be a positive release and something to really look forward to.
The latest project saw Chris Taylor, Head of Education and Welfare and Warren Campbell, Head of Coaching at the Academy, spend a day at the prison accompanied by first team players Tom Pope, Cristian Montano and Scott Brown.
The visit allowed the players to take part in question and answer sessions with 5 different groups of boys throughout the day.
Few of these boys have had positive role models to look up to in their own communities and have easily drifted into a life of offending. Many of them enjoy sport with football being a particular interest and so were keen to learn more about a footballer’s lifestyle and the rewards generated through commitment to a dedicated and healthy regime.
Tom, Cristian and Scott were also able to give advice and guidance to the boys on how to create sensible and responsible friendships and how to start thinking through a career pathway.
They also emphasised that there are plenty of professionals both inside and outside the prison who are keen to help them improve their lives.
“We welcomed the chance to engage with the boys and discuss ways to change their lifestyle, continue learning and progress into a worthwhile career” said Popey.
“All the boys we met were enthusiastic and we hope that they take on board our advice on choosing the right friends and finding out about their best possible opportunities.”
Chris Taylor added: “I’d like to thank Tom, Cristian and Scott for being part of what was a very worthwhile day.
“The boys were all interested to meet the players and really enjoyed the relaxed, open discussion with them. I’m sure that the experience has been a real benefit in helping to shape the boys’ attitude towards a positive future.”