In these challenging times for the club it is important to build for the future in a number of ways, just one of which involves the Supporters’ Trust Schools’ Initiative. The Trust has been working on its Schools’ Initiative for over two years and, with a pilot scheme already underway, now seems an opportune time to outline what has been involved and the key stages in taking it forward.
Why was the initiative needed?
In 2016 Sian Davies and Roger Goodwin approached the Supporters’ Trust Board independently to offer their services in getting involved in working with secondary school pupils.
Both were recently retired from management positions in education, Roger linking schools and Gower College in Swansea and Sian, likewise, schools and the College in Neath Port Talbot. Between them therefore they had an extensive range of contacts in schools across a significant area of the Swans’ fan base.
Both were concerned about the bias in Trust membership towards the older age groups. This was a worry for the future membership numbers of the Trust because of the danger that its origins and fundamental principles were likely to be forgotten as time progressed – after all, the Petty days are already ancient history for today’s fifteen year olds!
In the autumn of 2016 Phil Sumbler wrote to each of them, putting them in contact for the first time and asking them to formulate a proposal to be put before the Supporters’ Trust Board.
Sian and Roger met several times in late 2016 to brainstorm ideas. Starbucks has a lot to answer for! The meetings proved very productive and led to a decision by the pair in December 2016 that a good way to involve the Trust in schools was through the Welsh Baccalaureate qualification (WB).
The WB is a compulsory course for 14-16 year old pupils in schools in Wales. Within the WB pupils have to complete a variety of “Challenges” (projects) from a range of options. The aim was to develop a “Challenge” involving the Trust as one of those options. In this way it would be possible for a large number of pupils to work with the Trust, potentially across all secondary schools in Wales – although we didn’t anticipate too much take up East of Bridgend!
However, in December 2016 there were two immediate hurdles to overcome to progress the idea. Permission to proceed was needed from the Trust Board and the “Challenge” had to be approved by the Cardiff based Awarding Body, WJEC, before schools could allow their pupils to take it up.
In 2017 both Sian and Roger became Trust Board members (Sian elected and Roger co-opted) which enabled them to directly obtain permission from the Board to take the idea forward and to keep the Board updated with progress. This was a crucial step in the development of the initiative
The next step was to approach the WJEC through one of its Welsh Baccalaureate Regional Support Officers. Roger looked to his contacts and established which one to approach, only to find that Sian was well ahead of him as she already had long established links with the officer concerned.
After much discussion it appeared that a “Community Challenge”, based around the importance of the club and Trust to the wider community in Swansea, would be the most appropriate “Challenge” to develop. Sian and Roger continued to meet regularly during the early months of 2017 to draft the “Challenge”, following guidance from the Regional Support Officer.
Frequent emails and meetings between Sian and Roger in the Spring of 2017 ensured that the “Challenge” was submitted, with some confidence, to WJEC in Cardiff in May 2017 for consideration for inclusion in the Welsh Baccalaureate.
However, the “Challenge” was not approved by the relevant WJEC committee. Apparently there were issues around how the activities of the club and the Trust were beneficial to the community in Swansea!
Sian and Roger were very disappointed by the news and really didn’t know where to go from there as, without WJEC approval, the “Challenge” couldn’t be used in schools.
Back to the drawing board.
Recovering from the disappointment of hearing that the Cardiff meeting had not approved their “Challenge” for use in schools, Sian and Roger met again with their WJEC contact during June 2017 to explore alternative ways forward. It appeared that there was little hope that the “Community Challenge” could be adjusted to WJEC’s satisfaction.
Following discussions between the three, Sian and Roger opted to produce a “Challenge” from another section of the Welsh Baccalaureate: “Enterprise”. During the summer of 2017 meetings and email exchanges continued in order to draft an “Enterprise Challenge”. This asked pupils to develop a business idea to improve the match day experience for young people at the Liberty Stadium.
Once again everyone felt that the “Challenge” met all the requirements but, given the previous experience, it was, with some nervousness, submitted in time for the November meeting of the relevant WJEC committee in Cardiff.
However, at the end of November 2017 the Trust was notified that the “Challenge” had been approved, therefore giving the green light to introduce it to schools. What a great Christmas present!
The task for 2018 then became to pilot the “Challenge” in a few schools across the area.
Rolling the project out to schools.
Sian (Neath Port Talbot) and Roger (Swansea) have initially concentrated on introducing the “Challenge” in those areas where they have existing contacts although, of course, it is hoped that the “Challenge” will eventually be taken by pupils in schools from across the Swansea City fan base area
In the early months of 2018 they began developing supporting materials for schools at the same time as approaching schools that might wish to pilot the “Challenge”. Each school in Wales has a teacher who acts as a coordinator for its Welsh Baccalaureate programme and these coordinators regularly meet together on a local basis. Roger and Sian have each met with the Chairpersons of the groups in their area and enlisted their support in publicising the “Challenge” to schools. This has been followed up by visits to those schools that have expressed an early interest in some, or all, of their pupils taking up the “Challenge“.
That process is ongoing but there is already a Neath Port Talbot school piloting the “Challenge” with all of its fourteen year old pupils and a Swansea school anticipating using it for a selection of its students. Discussions continue with other schools in both areas, while an educational unit in Aberdare has recently confirmed its interest.
So after two years of trying the Trust is now in a position where fourteen to sixteen year old pupils in the area are about to engage with this initiative which, amongst other things such as developing business and enterprise skills, will introduce them to the Supporters’ Trust.
There is a lot of work still to do over the coming months and years as, hopefully, more schools in these two areas and beyond become involved in the project. Nevertheless a very positive start has been made in trying to interest considerably more young people in the work of the Supporters’ Trust. After all, these young people are the future of the Trust.
For more information on the Supporters’ Trust Schools’ Initiative contact: