There’s reportedly a sharp increase in the number of school dropouts among young English footballers. Kids are vacating classrooms to pursue a professional football career. In an interview with The Indian Express, England U-17 team’s Education and Welfare Officer, Kevin Batchelor, spoke about how the FA is putting emphasis on the young players’ education. Excerpts:
In this England U-17 team, how much emphasis is given on education to ensure that the kids take their GCSEs seriously and study further?
The boys and girls in the England teams from U-15 to U-18 levels have a designated Education and Welfare Officer for the season, who will ensure that on camp and in tournaments, the players do education on a daily basis, except on travel or match days. The work they do is set by their club or school depending on their age. In the U17 team during this last season, the players have had a mixture of subjects and syllabuses to cover including GCSE, A/S Level, BTEC level 3 in Sport, Functional Skills and NVQ. Each daily session will be in groups of 10 or less and will last 1 hour minimum.
In this team, do you have compulsory study hours for the lads, especially when they’re playing a tournament closer to their exams? At times, does the team manager also conduct mock tests?
The education is compulsory for those who have had it set. During the European U-17 championship, three boys sat their GCSE exams in Croatia and two boys sat A/S Levels. These boys did three hours of education revision per day, except on match days. In Bulgaria in 2015, 47 exams were taken by 11 players with one boy taking 11 exams during the tournament.
The England U-19 cricket team has something called ‘Dual Aspirations’, wherein the players have fixed times to do their homework and studies while on tour. Is it followed by the football team?
It is the same in principle with education timetabled into our schedule in the morning and training in the afternoon. This has been consistent all season for this group.
What does the FA do to help young players realise that education assists rather than hinders? Are they/team management in regular touch with the respective schools in terms of syllabus and stuff?
The Education team at St. George’s Park under the management of Caitlin Hawkins liaises with all clubs and schools throughout the year and asks for work when a player is called up to the England team. There is also liaison with the parents of the players, which of course is crucial.
The Education management team is in regular touch with the respective schools in terms of syllabus and resources. They have strong relationships with the appropriate teachers and heads of education in order to ensure that we can do the best for each individual player. This involves personal visits to the school or club as well as email conversations. At St. George’s Park, the home of the England teams, there is a purpose to build a state-of-the-art education room for when the players are on camp there. When we travel abroad, all the work is taken as well as a suite of laptops and an education kit box containing everything needed whilst away.
Do the Premier League clubs and the FA work in sync in this regard?
The FA Education Manager has strong relations with the Premier League and the English Football League. They hold joint meetings on a regular basis. There is good positive liaison and a healthy dialogue over all education matters.
Has any initiative been taken to invite the likes of Juan Mata and Vincent Kompany, great players with degrees, to have sessions with the youngsters and tell them that education and football aren’t inimical?
On various camps, we have had senior and ex-international players come in to talk to the boys about various matters, including the importance of education. We have also had athletes from other sports, including Olympians and other internationals.
How difficult it is to get the kids to focus on studies and ensure they are not watching YouTube on their laptops and actually studying?
The boys understand the importance of education and are fully concentrated and hardworking. They don’t watch or use the laptops for anything but their work. They are extremely professional and well behaved. All their completed work is returned to the appropriate establishment with a report on each player regarding progress, effort and attainment.