Above: Paul Leary (right) with senior tutor Dominic Saffman (centre) and teaching assistant Andrew Liggett
Living the football dream is giving Merseyside youngsters a second chance of achieving their education goals.
A groundbreaking partnership between specialist education provider Progress Schools and top football club Marine FC has this year produced a hat-trick of successes among teenage boys who fell out of the mainstream school system.
One has reached the major achievement in passing all his exams this year while another has secured an apprenticeship. The third, who had a poor history of turning up for lessons at his previous school, is now celebrating a brilliant attendance record.
Such has been the success of the project between Progress Schools and the fan-owned community football club in Crosby that the project is now about to begin a new season.
Marine chairman Paul Leary said: “We began the partnership with Progress Schools last year as we believed our club provided a perfect match for young people and their aspirations to do better.
“We have now seen the results and are delighted our ground is now a classroom base for boys and girls with challenges who just did not fit into mainstream education. Not only are they getting back into education but also they’re doing it at a football ground – a dream for most youngsters.
“As we’re a community club run by fans for fans, young people are pivotal to our ethos of developing and nurturing youth teams as part of the Mariners’ family. These boys are now members of this family.”
For the second year running, Progress Schools are sponsoring home and away shirts for Marine’s youth team as they play in the North West Youth Alliance.
James Madine, chief executive at Progress Schools, said: “In class, learners who are passionate about sport can take a range of modules for an extensive array of BTEC sports qualifications which cover both practical and theoretical elements as well as English, maths and vocational subjects.
“However, the most exciting thing about going to school at Marine also means having a learning base at a top Merseyside football club with access to its facilities – a full-size pitch which meets FA regulations, a recreational park with basketball and tennis courts, concrete football pitch and grass pitch. There’s also the added bonus of being able to attend live games and discuss tactics and formations with tutors.
“Because of this valuable partnership with Marine, we have seen some exceptional results in a short space of time. Students are willing to learn because they are in a supportive environment while others are delighted to turn up for classes – something they had never done before.
“We’re all looking forward to the start of the new term when more young people can experience first-hand some of the values that make Marine the great community and family-orientated club it is.”