Blackpool FC Community Trust column: Our school is set to open its doors
While the past year has obviously been very focused on the recovery from lockdowns and reforming a host of our provisions, it has also given us sufficient time to plan for the future and start to develop even more opportunities to support our community.
A key part of this has been something that has been a huge aspiration for myself over the past six years, which I was given licence to really investigate 15 months ago by my board of trustees – that is the BFC School.
This development will potentially support, initially, year 10 and 11 pupils struggling to engage in mainstream education and who may be on the verge of full-time exclusion.
They would attend an alternative school provision which will host them full-time at Bloomfield Road.
Working closely with the Department of Education, Blackpool Council and local schools, we have developed a very exciting education plan that will see pupils engaged in an enriched curriculum, which includes the critical subjects such as Maths, English and Science but also covers – where our skills, experience and expertise lie – sport and coaching.
Students will engage in a fantastic enrichment programme including Duke of Edinburgh, essential life skills and sport to give them a new lease of enthusiasm and commitment to education – and hopefully put them on the right path to finding an exciting career in future.
I have been working closely with a number of other football clubs to develop this offer, including Sunderland and their amazing facility – the Beacon of Light – to understand the complexities of such a provision, as well as engaging local providers to understand the needs of our young people in Blackpool.
While this is arguably our greatest challenge to date, it’s also our most exciting development and chance to make a life-changing impact on young people’s pathways.
This certainly isn’t something we have gone into blind.
We have been supporting local secondary schools with an AP respite offer for the past two years and delivering a post-16 BTEC Sport offer for eight years.
That’s as well as a host of education programmes in local secondary schools – including our newest programme High School Hubs – for many years, so our experience and impact proves our provision can, and will, work.
The school will be based in temporary facilities for the first year, situated in the old nursery building in the North Stand at Bloomfield Road.
The Community Trust has invested more than £160,000 to convert it into an appropriate and modern education facility, while we work up some very exciting plans with Blackpool FC for a more sustained and permanent plan.
The programme will initially enrol 16 students in September 2021, doubling its capacity in September 2022.
The next stage is our recruitment of a head of school, for which the advert is currently out, while this week we send our application to register as an independent school to the DfE.
It’s genuinely an exciting time to be part of Blackpool FC Community Trust and lead such amazing opportunities to try and help even more people in our great town.
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