Football and education: Our motivation for success 

As the first academic year of PeterDeen reaches a conclusion, Aberdeenshire’s Head of Education Vincent Docherty and his brother Tony, assistant manager at Aberdeen Football Club (AFC), are getting together with Steven Sweeney from AFC’s Community Trust to congratulate scholars and look to the future. 

In short, more football, more education and more passion for helping local young people to succeed. 

As Vincent, who played in the same team as his brother, at Stirling Albion, earlier in their careers explains: “In football, you have to find ways to motivate players to perform at their best, and it’s the same thing we’re constantly striving to do in education.”

PeterDeen, the brain-child of Avril Nicol, Communities and Partnerships Manager, herself a Dons fanatic, is the first example of a Scottish Premiership club working closely with a League 1 club and a local authority to deliver an alternative learning programme for secondary school pupils. Its success has already been recognised at a national level with the SPFL Trust’s Community Project of the Year Award. 

Aberdeenshire Council’s Community Learning and Development (CLD) team works to deliver learning opportunities with and for young people across the region, engaging them in them in a variety of youth projects as well as supporting those who may be finding engaging in school difficult. Avril leads the team and developed her idea of delivering an innovative, alternative curriculum with Vincent and staff at Peterhead Academy, then approached AFC’s Community Trust to see if they would be interested in supporting its delivery as a partner. 

Vincent added: “The involvement of local football clubs has been a real hook for the young people we are trying to help achieve better outcomes for themselves. Every young person is entitled to a curriculum that meets their needs and the confidence, the sense of purpose and achievement this programme has given our PeterDeen scholars so far has been Children playing footballincredible.”

The 18 S3 pupils who have taken part this year have enjoyed two days per week of specialist coaching delivered by AFC, two days of studying core subjects at school such as Maths and English, and one day per week with CLD’s Work With Young People team. 

Peterhead FC were able to provide training facilities this year and Peterhead’s Score Group stepped in with sponsorship as well as training opportunities. 

The programme has proven to be a resounding success with attendance rates from participating pupils going from below 40% to beyond 90%. It is now hoped this can be replicated in other areas, with plans for FraserDeen commencing in Fraserburgh this August. 

Councillor Gillian Owen, Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee said: “What a fantastic year for these young people! The project delivers a curriculum through which students are encouraged to celebrate their own achievements and develop as independent, responsible and creative individuals with a lifelong interest in learning and self-development. We are so looking forward to many more young people benefitting from similar opportunities.”

Steven Sweeney, Operations Manager from AFC Community Trust commented: “Thank you to Aberdeenshire Council and Peterhead Academy for their fantastic support of the PeterDeen Scholarship. 

“Our partnership has seen the attendance of some young people go from under 40 to over 90%, exclusions have reduced by over 80% and behaviour referrals have halved, and the young people have successfully achieved a number of awards and accreditations.

“We are delighted to work alongside Peterhead FC, the theme of football clubs working together to support local communities is a powerful one which we are very proud of.

“In 2019/20 we are excited to expand the PeterDeen Scholarship and roll out models in Fraserburgh and Aberdeen City based on its unprecedented success.”

Martin Johnston from Peterhead Football Club added: "We are also pleased to have played a role in the inaugural year of what is a ground-breaking project. Congratulations to all stakeholders and of course the participants for making this possible."

Conrad Ritchie is Managing Director of Score International Limited. He said: “We are very pleased with the positive progress within the PeterDeen programme. Well done to the pupils involved and their achievements so far. We are delighted to be involved in this project and are confident that the programme will continue to go from strength to strength.”

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