Relationships can change the world

September 2022. Seven former FBB participants from the Elmgreen School in Lambeth all start their first year at University. One group of mates, all heading into Higher Education. A success story. The special thing about this example is that they all rocked up to the same University. 

Marley, Daniel, Matar, Tyree, Aaron, Malachi, Dior and Oskar were all part of the FBB schools programme for four years. Marley, Aaron, Daniel and Dior also worked for FBB as programme assistants. Their relationships were catalysed with the support of a trusted adult, in the classroom and on the football pitch. 

“It feels surreal, because these are the same people I’ve been around since I was twelve years old. The growth that I’ve seen from myself and my friendship group is mad and I’m just grateful that we’re still together” - Marley 

Football Beyond Borders’ goal is to ensure that young people have trusted adults in their lives so that they can develop supportive relationships with their peers which enable them to thrive at school. Relationships are one of our core mechanisms of change. A mechanism of change is the term used by impact professionals to describe something you help happen in order to achieve something else. 

Unfortunately, there is a bleak outlook for relationships between young people on a national level. At the National Youth Agency’s 2022 Youth Work Summit, Onward shared a report which outlined that 12% of 18-34 year-olds had either ‘one or no close friends.’

FBB was set up through the belief that football is one of the most powerful tools in the world to build relationships. If we are to avert a ‘crisis of connection’ in young people, then we’re certain football can help achieve it. To test the hypothesis, we asked our audience if they had an important relationship formed through football, and if so, how it developed. 

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Now back to the Elmgreen group. University education is a good indicator that you will thrive later in life, with numerous studies reporting greater life-satisfaction, higher-achieving children, lower unemployment and increased earnings in adulthood. For these boys, attending FBB sessions, and then later University together, it’s also highly likely their relationships will embed into adulthood.

Football coaches, teachers and youth workers can’t guarantee connection between young people, but they can create fertile environments where relationships can thrive. Young people need places where healthy relationships can form. The starting point to feeling connection is feeling safety. Schools and football pitches can be safe spaces, but only if young people are met with the right support. This needs to be delivered by staff with expertise in supporting vulnerable young people, such as those with Special Educational Needs (SEN) or with mental health challenges. 

At the moment, teachers don’t have any formal entitlement to high quality training or Continuous Professional Development (CPD) offered by the government despite this having a significant effect on attainment at school. 

All FBB practitioners who work with young people are enrolled into our National Training Programme. Every Wednesday, they receive a full day of training in specialisms including teaching and learning, SEN support and counselling. Those staff who don’t have accreditations in these areas work towards them. The morning begins with two hours of connection time, to ensure practitioners have moments to deepen their understanding of their colleagues and elements of their personalities through creative tasks and guided reflections. This also complements bi-weekly reflective practice, where practitioners have space to process their relational dynamics with young people and explore the emotions they experience in their roles. 

“The National Training Programme is at the core of all our practitioner development journeys. We are providing a wraparound learning experience with pre and follow up work to embed learnings and impact practitioners practice. The NTP is also a space for practitioners to deepen relationships with built-in time to connect and reflect through expressive experiences and activities” - Marissa Gordon, Learning and Relationships Lead

Football Beyond Borders are calling for the government to create a National Training Programme (similar to Frontline, TeachFirst and Unlocked) for school pastoral staff to ensure every vulnerable young person has the support of a trusted adult relationship. 

Football Beyond Borders are also supporting the National Youth Agency’s call for an additional 10,000 youth workers. Youth workers like Sam

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