Aston Villa Foundation

Pete Ezard is the Programmes Manager for the Aston Villa Foundation; a charitable trust and new IOEE Academy. The Birmingham-based foundation supports young people through the delivery of learning and employability opportunities and SFEDI-accredited qualifications, using the status of Aston Villa Football Club to attract and inspire pupils. This month we chatted to Pete about getting young people interested in education through Aston Villa’s three core values: Pride, Passion and Purpose.

Trying to motivate high school pupils who may be disengaged with education, have behavioural issues, or who are not going to attain high-level GCSE results, is not going to be without its challenges – but Aston Villa Football Club is a sure-fire way to get young people’s attention and invite them to look at education in a whole new way.

Pete says: “As the Foundation’s Programmes Manager, part of my role is to provide educational opportunities within schools, particularly with young people who might not be at the highest level of achievements; kids who may have behavioural issues or other academic or personal challenges –who are, for one reason or another, disengaged with school and learning. We use the Aston Villa Football Club as a beacon to attract them, to draw them back into a learning state of mind, to get them engaged and actively involved in enrichment programmes and social enterprise qualifications. It can be extremely hard work and there’s a lot of demand on our workforce, but the reward is the flip side of that – watching young people overcoming challenges and attaining a qualification is an amazing thing to see.”

Aimed at Year 9 and Year 10 students, the SFEDI-accredited Social Enterprise qualification teaches students about what social enterprise means, and then gives them the opportunity to set up and run a business that will positively impact their school or local community.

Pete says: “It takes the shape of a traditional 10-hour course, with one-hour sessions running weekly for 10 weeks. The actual content of the qualification is to encourage young people to think about developing a business, but any profit that their social enterprise generates gets fed back into a charitable donation. For example, lots of young people come up with such things as football tournaments, which will raise awareness of issues in the local area, and those issues can be quite hard-hitting – knife crime and gang culture is a problem in this area, so it’s great that kids are positively engaging and working to not only get a qualification, but also to positively impact the local community.”

Though qualifications are key, Pete tells us that students actually gain far more than academic education, and that the Aston Villa Foundation is seeing students come on leaps and bounds with their personal self-esteem and confidence. The Foundation has recently worked with Great Barr Academy, which supports students who have various special educational needs, who often find the traditional classroom environment restrictive to their learning. One particular student stands out for Pete – a student who not only required support with a number of aspects of core education subjects like Maths and English, but who also faced significant struggles with nerves and anxiety.

Pete says: “The Social Enterprise programme made such a positive impact with this student. She’s overcome huge barriers to achieve her goal and is now a much more confident individual who has improved self-esteem and the ability to manage her anxiety in lots of situations. It was evident during every lesson that she was worried about the final event; in her reflection work she said that she’d felt anxious about how people were going to approach her, and what she would do if something went wrong. During the project her anxiety levels were constantly up and down. On the morning of the project’s event, she didn’t even want to come into school as she felt so worried and nervous about it all. “However, with support and reassurance from her tutor and mentor, she came in and was very calm and prepared, very conscientious, making sure that all members of her group were on task – she really came out of her shell and became a natural leader.

It was a great way of giving her a sense of achievement, and it significantly increased her own confidence and engagement within her peer group. As a result of the Social Enterprise qualification, our students subsequently have a desire to help others to use social enterprise as a way of learning too, and so they themselves inspire other students to become more engaged in education as a result.”

The Aston Villa Foundation has recently been awarded its IOEE Academy status, and Pete reflects on what this new accreditation means to him and the charitable trust.

Pete says: “SFEDI quality-assure all of the work that we do, and so all of the programmes and qualifications that we deliver need to be observed and assessed, which holds us accountable to ensure we’re consistently meeting our own high standards as well as theirs. Becoming a delivery partner for SFEDI Awards gives us an external verification that adds to our reputation as a professional organisation that is recognised for delivering successful social enterprise sessions; it’s a stamp of approval and a new and exciting partnership, and one I’m very much looking forward to taking forwards with more of our educational programmes.”