An education and employability programme run by the Irish FA Foundation in conjunction with an east Belfast secondary school has been showcased to national football associations across Europe.
In September last year the foundation launched its first Development School programme in partnership with Ashfield Boys’ High School.
Part of the UEFA-supported Schools in Football Education and Employability Programme, it involves Year 13 and Year 14 pupils at the school attaining various coaching qualifications and broadening their knowledge of the game.
Irish FA Director of Football Development Michael Boyd explained: “This is an exciting new development in line with UEFA’s Grassroots Charter to use the sport of football to promote education and employability. It also helps us to grow the game in line with our youth football strategy Let Them Play which has schools as a priority focus.”
The Development School initiative was highlighted at a UEFA Share conference which was hosted in Northern Ireland and attracted representatives from football associations across Europe.
As part of the conference the delegates got the opportunity to attend Ashfield, hear about various aspects of the programme and watch the students in action as they refereed a game between Year 8 pupils.
Through the initiative the Irish FA Foundation’s education officers deliver a portfolio of coaching qualifications and workshops to Sports Studies students at Ashfield which boost the students’ enrichment programme and sit alongside their Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Diploma in Sport.
And as part of the partnership Irish FA Foundation staff, with their industry expertise, also work alongside teachers to deliver some BTEC modules.
Enrichment programmes that the students have completed to date include the Irish FA’s Grassroots Introduction to Coaching Award, Level One Coaching Award, Level One Coaching Disabled Footballers Award, Futsal Level One Award and the Referee Level One Award.
Students have also developed their employability and life skills, including time management, communication, controlling a group, teamwork, adaptability and organisation.
In addition they have gained valuable knowledge of the football industry through event management and work experience, and there will be further opportunities to gain paid work across Irish FA Foundation programmes, including holiday camps, after schools’ coaching sessions and development programmes.
Jo McColgan, the principal of Ashfield Boys’ High School, said: “We are honoured to be recognised as an Irish FA Development School and are delighted with the programme, and the enrichment portfolio, that we have developed in conjunction with the Irish FA.
“The added value that this programme has provided for our boys, and our school, is quite simply immeasurable. We look forward to continuing our work and seeing the programme develop even further over the coming years.”