Hundreds of young people hit hardest by the pandemic are being offered mental health and wellbeing support by Rotherham United and five other Northern 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, Rotherham United have partnered with Stoke City. This programme aims to work 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 the Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area, the pastoral support is being delivered through Stoke City’s affiliated community schemes; 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.
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, 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.”
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.
Rotherham United Community Sports Trust has set up a mentoring scheme to support around 10 pupils who are experiencing disadvantage and as a result require additional support with their mental health which ultimately has an impact in their school attainment.
The football clubs from outside the Opportunity Areas were chosen based on a range of criteria related to disadvantage and established relationships between clubs.
It follows confirmation of funding allocations for the fourth year of the Opportunity Areas programme last July, including a share of £1 million specifically to support ‘twinning’ work and expand the programme’s reach. Stoke-on-Trent and Blackpool Opportunity Areas have each invested £100,000 into these football club projects.
Jamie Noble, Head of Community at Rotherham United Community Sports Trust said:
“we are honoured to have been chosen to partner with football clubs from across the Pennines. This scheme is a great credit to our staff and the programmes that they deliver to the communities in Rotherham. We’re incredibly passionate about being a part of the country’s football family and are proud to contribute to the collective impact that community partners of football clubs can have. Over the last 10 years we are very proud to have brought in an investment of over £10 million into Rotherham by working with national and regional organisations. This considerable amount of money has hugely benefitted the people of Rotherham.”
The Department for Education is investing £90 million in 12 Opportunity Areas over four years with £1 million set aside to ‘twin’ with other places so they can improve outcomes and opportunities for even more young people.
The fourth year of the programme is supporting young people hit hardest by the pandemic and work is underway to share more broadly the expertise and successes from the programme so far to help other places to overcome similar challenges.
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