Hundreds of young people hit hardest by the pandemic are being offered mental health and wellbeing support by six football clubs to help them stay engaged in education so they can catch up on lost learning and raise their aspirations.
Through the Government’s Opportunity Areas programme, Stoke City, Port Vale and Blackpool Football Clubs are working with pupils aged 11 to 19 who are disadvantaged, vulnerable or at risk of falling out of education, employment or training.
These schemes will give young people a way to talk through their anxieties and fears with trained mentors in one-to-one sessions at school and college, or online during the period of national restrictions, as part of the support on offer. They will help them find ways to overcome any obstacles, build their confidence and resilience so they are ready to learn and do not fall behind. Many of these pupils are vulnerable and can still attend school along with key worker children.
Funded by Stoke-on-Trent and Blackpool Opportunity Areas, the pastoral support is being delivered through the football club’s community teams, building on their existing outreach work which has made them a recognised brand in their community. Each football club is working with another in a different area to set up similar mentoring schemes and help even more young people. In Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area, Stoke City is working with Rotherham United and Port Vale with Lincoln City, while in Blackpool Opportunity Area, Blackpool is working with Fleetwood Town in Lancashire.
Minister for the Opportunity Areas Michelle Donelan said:
“Our focus throughout the pandemic has been to protect the most vulnerable in our society, creating new opportunities that secure their future success in spite of the challenges we face as a country.
“It is fantastic to see investment from our Opportunity Areas programme benefitting these schemes in Stoke-on-Trent and Blackpool, supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing so they are ready to catch up on lost learning and do not fall behind.
“By sharing their resources and expertise with clubs in Fleetwood, Rotherham and Lincoln, even more secondary pupils can build life skills like confidence and resilience to tackle obstacles and thrive.”
Steve Cato, who is Project Co-Ordinator at the Port Vale Foundation said:
“The mentoring programme is a huge growth area for the foundation and will enable us to fulfil our community club ambitions.
“Stoke-on-Trent has a high need for a project like this, supporting young people who need it most.
“Along with our network of partner agencies, we will provide structured, safe and progressive mentoring for young people in our city.”
During the period of national restrictions, mentoring is happening face-to-face or online, ensuring the most vulnerable continue to get the support they need whether learning at home or school.
The Valiants' scheme will be delivered by the clubs Foundation, who will assess provision across the city to identify key gaps and establish a mentoring network to support young people and their families who have been impacted by the pandemic.
The club is also working with nine secondary schools to offer support to around 124 pupils, helping them overcome challenges so they stay engaged with their learning, avoid criminal exploitation, raise their aspirations, and take advantage of career opportunities.
Port Vale Foundation are now working with Lincoln City to share resources and identify pupils in two secondary schools that need extra support.