Premiership pitches in with BTec

Graeme Paton & Joseph Lee

Professional footballers are not always touted as the world's best role models.

From Wayne Rooney's filthy mouth to Lee Bowyer's on-pitch punch-up, commentators have been quick to condemn the actions of some of the country's highest-paid soccer stars.

But now English football's governing body is hoping to dispel the game's negative image - by creating a BTec diploma in sport.

The FA Premier League is providing materials to accompany the course, worth up to four grade A*-C GCSEs.

Officials hope the use of Premier League-branded coursework, access to an official website and classroom materials splashed with pictures of leading players will act as an inspiration to pupils.

Kate Coleman, the Premier League's head of education, said: "It is all about using the power of football to inspire and motivate children who may need a bit of an extra push."

The course, First in Sport!, for pupils aged 14 to 16, is based on Edexcel's BTec first diploma in sport.

But for pound;1,000 a year teachers get access to lesson plans, assignments, a website and a telephone helpline. Schools will also be able to arrange visits to Premier League clubs to study modules on the sports industry.

Staff at Ashton-on-Mersey sports college, Sale, originally designed the course for Manchester United's trainee footballers, who are sent to the school for tuition between training.

The Premier League then approached the school's headteacher, Tarun Kapur, with a view to spreading the course to others schools and more than 70 are now signed up to start in September.

Meanwhile, pupils are fuelling a boom in demand for new equipment in schools by wanting to try everything from kick-boxing to Pilates instead of traditional sports.

Despite the Government's funding of pound;458 million over three years to transform school sport, headteachers are seeking free equipment to satisfy their new interests.

Sainsbury's Active Kids promotion, which offers sports equipment to schools which collect vouchers, has already signed up 21,000 schools within weeks of launching.

Steve Grainger, managing director of the Youth Sports Trust, said:

"Traditional games are not for everyone. It's a particularly big problem with girls dropping out.

"The reason we need more sports equipment is a sign of success rather than failure."

At Perins school, a sports college in New Alresford, Hampshire, pupils are being offered lacrosse, Ultimate Frisbee, kick-boxing and Pilates alongside the more traditional school sports.

Lynne Carter, director of the specialism, said: "When we became a sports college, we asked pupils what activities they wanted to do.

"Some wanted skateboarding, but we haven't approached that yet."

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Graeme Paton & Joseph Lee

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