On the ball at Everton
A phone call from Everton chairman Peter Johnson saw Ken Heaton swap his school in rural Cumbria for a classroom at Goodison Park and the chance to develop a schools programme that goes beyond football coaching sessions.
It perhaps goes without saying that Ken is an Everton fanatic. He also knows the value of a football club to local communities. "Football is a major part of so many people's lives. It is more than just a game."
Everton has created a classroom at the ground and Ken has developed material that incorporates the football club across a wider area of the curriculum. "My brief was to involve as many schools as possible in the Merseyside region and develop a curriculum pack on various national curriculum subjects. I also try to develop the family side at Everton and organise family fun days," he said.
Reserve games can now see up to 9,000 youngsters turning up to watch not just the football but school gym displays on the pitch and see clowns and jugglers. Schools are also involved on the actual night.
Schools are also being encouraged to take part in projects to coincide with the European Champion-ships for which Liverpool is one of the host cities. Musical performances, dance and art work are among the ideas being put forward to involve children in the city and Everton is a focal point.
"We have found that involving the football club does motivate the kids, " says Ken. "When we get a class of kids in they are really excited. If we take the FA cup in to their school that is a special event. The lessons are easier for them to relate to if the maths question is about tickets for Everton's next game."
A cross-curriculuar pack for key stage 1 and 2 has been developed. For example, a pair of 1938 football boots can be used as the basis of a history lesson, designing kit and club logos is done in art, the history of the club is obvious, maths problems can be set using the pitch, league tables or the turnstiles.
There has also been work on equal opportunities and anti-racism involving kids from inner city schools and Everton players. Anti-smoking and healthy lifestyle projects are also being done. "This has worked really well and been a positive exercise. The message carries more weight when it is backed by these kids' idols," says Ken.
A former OFSTED inspector, he recognises that football clubs generally are becoming more aware of their community role. "It is not a means of exploiting the kids to get them to buy more shirts, but a way of clubs putting something back in to their local communities."
The year-long secondment ends in December, though talks are being held about a possible extension. Ken Heaton's salary is being paid by Everton and the local TEC. If the secondment does end it will be back to Haverigg Primary School in West Cumbria for Ken.