Pupils on a par
Football ClubWork, as the T-shirt proclaims, is a four-letter word. And, like another more famous four-letter word, it gets used a lot in sport. "To reach the top takes a lot of hard work"; "There's a lot of work to be done at the club"; "We're working with the kids"; and, in the case of my team, "Somebody needs to work a miracle".
The word has become a clich, its meaning lost with too much work. So when you hear "working with the community" in the first few frames of this video, you can be excused for not getting too excited. But be patient. You'll soon realise that work, in this context, is the key ingredient: plenty of hard, targeted, valuable and relevant work.
Equality Through Sport is the title of a wallet full of educational materials - primarily a video, photographs, newspaper extracts and suggested exercises. The materials have been produced by Brentford Football Club's Football in the Community office, with the support of both Hounslow and Ealing borough councils and a host of other interested parties.
The contents are nominally divided to target specific audiences: personal and social education at Year 7, sport and society courses at GCSE and A-level, and the marketing and promotion element of GNVQ leisure and tourism. The materials are flexible enough to be adapted for a range of uses.
They deal with equality in the broadest sense. Ethnicity, gender and ability are all given extensive treatment, as is class. A photograph of a young lad expensively kitted out for golf is a strong reminder of an area of inequality that is often ignored. Tiger Woods may encourage black golfers, but he wasn't exactly from the streets. Discuss.
Importantly, the pack reminds us just how vital sport can be in promoting equality. Meeting and competing breaks down barriers and forges friendships, and team sports are especially effective in this respect. Both the photographs and the recorded interviews reinforce this message.
Any message gains authority when it is delivered by real people. Lee Doyle (the video presenter and, as Brentford's football in the community officer, driving force behind the project) is a perfect model: honest and enthusiastic. His choice of participants is also authentic, ranging from school children with disabilities to international sportsmen and women at the height of their careers, all of whom speak freely and candidly. These will repay repeated viewing; discussion groups will be fascinated. Graham Rix, the Chelsea coach who came across as a bit of a hardman in a recent TV documentary, gives his blunt views on racism. The England cricketer Alec Stewart, despite playing for a consistently unsuccessful team, exudes a love of sport that will encourage others. And the members of the Chelsea women's football team tell it like it is - they play a minority sport and several of them are black. It's not easy.
One area that is not covered in detail, but that may emerge in classgroup discussions, is money. Professional football, for example, is being dramatically reshaped and disrupted by financial inequalities. Perhaps another pack can be devoted to this topic.
Equality Through Sport is not all about football, however. The sports range from marathon running to sports gymnastics, from rugby to basketball.Sports adapted for the disabled are also included.
The video is the flagship for the project, but the paper resources are the key. They are written with good attention to language level, and relevance to real teaching needs. A range of schools are listed in the acknowledgements, and their participation has probably been crucial. Production values are not high, although the box is very durable. Mon-ey has been spent wisely.
Everything about the materials is worthy of praise. That's the good news. The bad news is that the initial print run has been snapped up. Further copies will be made available, but at a nominal cost. Ideally other clubs and groups in any area of sport and education should use these materials as a starting point for developing their own. To revert to the clich, these materials work. An excellent foundation has been laid here; it's worth building upon.
Lee Doyle, Football in the Community, Brentford FC, Griffin Park, Braemar Road, Brentford, Middlesex TW8 0NT. Tel: 0181 758 9430