The world of football is not traditionally associated with high- performing education. But this week, England's Premier League has put paid to that cliche after being rated "outstanding" by Ofsted for its youth training provision.
The league runs the education programme that all full-time youth players undertake within their clubs from the age of 16, called the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence.
Apprentices study for qualifications such as Btec diplomas, either in- house or at local FE colleges, alongside their on-pitch training. Some also take A-levels and train for coaching badges.
Inspectors praised the programme for turning out "highly rounded" individuals for their age, and said that the Premier League "demonstrates an outstanding capacity to improve".
Three-quarters of boys go on to sign professional contracts after finishing the two-year course, whether in the Premier League or lower divisions.
But those who do not make the grade are well equipped for further study or other employment, Ofsted said.
Every club academy has a full-time head of education and welfare, and a team of coaches who deliver on-the-job training.
Other training is provided on behalf of the clubs by a range of providers including local schools and colleges, and the programme is supported by a range of agencies including the Professional Footballers' Association and the anti-racism Kick It Out campaign.
The Ofsted report said trainees develop particularly good personal and social skills and the ability to analyse and reflect on their own progress.
It said: "The Premier League has very effectively managed the reorganisation of the programme, leading to much improved results. Leaders and managers set very high expectations for learners and staff.
"Particularly effective arrangements are in place to support clubs who are relegated or promoted to ensure learners are not disadvantaged."
Previously the scheme was rated "good". Its work has also been awarded "beacon status" by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service.
Ged Roddy, the Premier League's director of youth, said: "The education of players may not be something that commands the back pages, but it is a duty-of-care issue that the Premier League and its clubs take very seriously.
"The academy system is about the development of elite players to feature in one of the toughest football leagues in the world, but it is also about ensuring that every one of our players has a bright future."
Last year, 93 per cent of trainees completed the apprenticeship.