SCL & Charlton Athletic Community Trust
striving to create and improve pathways


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Striving to create and improve pathways within football for the next generation, Charlton Athletic Community Trust is working in partnership with leading providers of education through sport, SCL, to provide opportunities for 16-18-year olds to complete their Level 2 or Level 3 qualification in sport, whilst training full-time.

Delivering a mix between in-classroom and on-pitch learning, the carefully curated programme is now in its ninth year of delivery with SCL, their official education partner.

Charlton Athletic Community Trust is working together with SCL to provide a platform for ambitious young learners to channel their passion for sport and prevent them from becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training).

Michael Ward, Head of Football & Sports Development at Charlton Athletic Community Trust, explains how the partnership with SCL is benefitting the club, their learners, and the wider community.

Ward explains: “Football sometimes has a stigma attached to it, and it’s important that as a club we are shown to be giving back to the community. We are one of the leading providers in our community; constantly trying to improve our community through the work that we do.”.

Ward continues: “What’s great about the partnership is that SCL are industry leading. They are fantastic with the boys and girls that we work with. Some of these young people probably haven’t succeeded as well as they would have liked to at school, for various reasons, and have had to come and do retakes of their exams.

“As a partnership, we understand how to work with these young people to ensure that they get the best education and best foot forward before they go out into the working world, or onto higher education.”.

Ensuring the lads get an education while plying their trade is something which CACT reinforces and that SCL champions.

On the importance of the education and football mix, Ward explains: “It’s huge. For some of these boys, education is not really their focus. We try to be quite strict around attendance, timekeeping and keeping on track with work. That is something that SCL’s tutors are brilliant at.

“The boys understand that they are not going to be playing if they are not up to date with their work or if they’ve missed an exam. That’s what the boys need to understand – they get to enjoy the sport, but it has a knock on with their education.”


Having firmly established itself within the local community as a non-traditional, yet professional pathway, the programme’s reputation is strong and growing.

On parents’ perception of the programme, Ward explains: “I think parents are a little bit more aware now of what this programme is. They don’t want to have their child just turning up to play football all day at a college.

“When we have our open days and we chat to parents, we make it very clear that this is an education programme; that they are not here to play for the football club. They are here to go to college with us.

“The difference is that their college is a football pitch and it is a training ground, and there will be competitive fixtures around it, but if their work or attendance is poor, they don’t play, and we’re very strict on that.”.

Fully immersing the youngsters in the world of sport, learners benefit from studying, training and interacting with tutors and coaches within a real sports environment, whilst gaining first-hand knowledge and insight into the industry.

Ward explains: “SCL deliver the Level 2 NCFE in Sport and Level 3 BTEC Diploma in Sport. That equates to around 12 hours a week education time”, Ward explains.

“At Charlton, we have a classroom at our training ground which is where they deliver those programmes. We’ve also got classroom space at the University of Greenwich which is another of our supporters. This is good for our Year 2 students and they get most of their lessons over there which helps them to take a step into, and familiarise themselves with, university life.

“The football side, which we deliver, runs for around 8 to 12 hours a week and is based at our training ground at Sparrows Lane. The boys are fortunate as they get to train close to the first team. We’ve got four 3G pitches and plenty of space to work as a group on different aspects of the game.”


But it’s not all eyes on the game at Charlton Athletic Community Trust. Ensuring that they are best prepared for their future, learners are equipped with opportunities for developing transferrable skills through regular tutorials and professional work experience opportunities.

Ward explains: “They’re not just turning up and having a kick around, it’s a dedicated education programme where football is a by-product to help build their confidence, discipline and self-esteem levels.

“The most important element is confidence. A lot of these boys will have left school with little or no GCSEs, and their confidence in education isn’t great but maybe they are good footballers, or they enjoy the type of camaraderie you get within a group.

“The Level 2 and Level 3 programmes are more group and assessment-based work, so we can track and set timelines to help develop their confidence and instil some discipline around completing their work.

“But the sport element has a massive effect on that”, Ward continues. “Right now, on the training field, they’re laughing and joking, and you wouldn’t think this is their college environment, but then they need to transfer that enthusiasm in the classroom in the afternoon.”


Creating unique opportunities for students whilst enabling them to reach their potential, the future is looking bright for the CACT Academy learners.

SCL FE Sports Lecturer, working at CACT, explains: “The programme offers a different pathway to gaining a qualification in sport. Bringing education and football together allows us to capture real life experiences of the learners and allows them to bring these into their assignments.

“The opportunities learners can gain from this programme range from apprenticeships to university degrees. Learners have a real variety of choice”.”

Providing fantastic opportunities for progression into higher education and employment, with learners going on to play professionally, secure jobs or enrol in apprenticeships and higher education programmes, Ward adds: “On the football side, we’ve got four boys who are going to go into semi-professional football teams in the pre-season to do some training with them. We’ve got one boy who is trialling with us and will play with the under 18’s.

“In terms of education, last year we had one boy go to university and we have three boys coming back on coaching apprenticeships. They’ll be paid to learn and work whilst gaining their Level 2 coaching badges and hopefully kick on and become full-time coaches.”.

Working in partnership for young people’s futures, both SCL tutors and Charlton coaches receive an immense sense of pride as they witness learners coming onto the programme, developing themselves, and then moving onto brighter futures and careers in sport.

Ward explains: “The coaches themselves see those exit routes and those boys, who, by the end of it, achieve something remarkable compared to from their first week with us when all we were doing was spending time on the phone trying to get them into college.”