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Premier League, Primary Stars

A couple of weeks ago I was invited celebrate a year of the Premier League Primary Stars programme. The event was so inspiring and until that evening, I wasn’t aware of how much went on behind the scenes. I had seen a few tweets about the programme when it first launched in March 2017, but was gobsmacked at how many schools are taking part!

The Premier League Trophy

Primary Stars

The programme has already got over 100 football clubs involved, engaging in over 15,000 primary schools in England and Wales and is growing at a fast pace. The programme takes the glitz and glamour of the Premier League stars into schools to help inspire and motivate the children. Aimed towards key stages 1 and 2, the teacher resources are completely free to download from their website for PE, PSHE, English and Maths. They even offer in school support by sending professionals and footballers to help train the teachers to keep the legacy going year after year! Kits
The evening was hosted by Ben Shires of CBBC fame, where he shared the incredible achievements of the program and some moving videos that really tugged at the heart strings. Watching children who struggled with their learning, until the programme was introduced, and to see their passion to succeed and get better was so emotional. It made me think of my two boys, who both very different, have had their struggles at school with reading and writing.

GETHYN’S STORY – SWANSEA FC from Rhyss Hall on Vimeo.

Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore spoke about where he saw the programme going and aims to reach the remaining 5000 schools who haven’t yet signed up. I’m pretty sure Alex’s school is one of those and I will certainly be sharing the Premier League love with them!

Writing Stars

The evening had delight after delight. My favourite being when they announced the winners of the Writing Stars Campaign, backed by the National Literacy Trust. The competition, to write a poem about resilience, received over 25,000 entries from primary school children aged between 6 and 11.
The winning entries were heartwarming and emotional. ‘Monkey Bars’, written by 6 year old  Amelie which was about how she overcame the challenge of the monkey bars. Beautifully written and so mature in language for someone so young! The other winner was by Sadie who wrote an emotional poem about her mothers battle with cancer and celebrating her mothers bravery. So beautiful, so emotional, I couldn’t help but cry.
Cressida Cowell and Lauren Childs presents Amelie and Sadie their awards.
The competition inspired a book called “Try, Try, Try again” and contained poems from the entries and also some famous faces can be found in there too! Cresida Cowell (How to train your dragon) and Lauren Childs (Charlie & Lola) attended the event to discuss the programme and they read out some of the wonderful poems included the book.
Sadie and Amelia’s poems can be found at here, along with the other winners who have been included in the book.

My story

Going to school comes with mixed emotions for primary school kids. Some *really* love it, some hate it, but then there are the kids who like it, but struggle and feel left out. I have two children who are very different when it comes to school, which I will go into shortly. At a bare minimum, you expect your child to be reading and writing. With schools today stretched beyond their means, it can be hard to provide the right level of support to all children and as a result, this can cause them to lose interest or be left behind.

I have one of each, so I have seen this from both sides of the spectrum. My stepson, who is my eldest (13), is an intelligent boy who has a freakishly quick mathematical mind. He *loves* to read, but struggles terribly with spelling and handwriting, due to his dyspraxia. Lack of resources and in some cases, teachers meant that he didn’t always get the help and support he needed from his primary school. Special needs were, at times, overlooked or dismissed. As a result he became disillusioned with the schooling system and he found it hard to trust teachers. He fell behind at school and this caused other issues to arise that were more difficult to address and deal with.
Heart breaking for his mum, dad and I, it was hard to know what to do to change this. Even a totally consistent, loving and supportive family couldn’t ‘fix’ this. It was broken – and to him, beyond repair. The school was poorly funded and was located in a rural part of Scotland. Certainly not high on the list of the boroughs priorities.

The Little Fierce One

On the other hand, I have my 6 year old son, who as a toddler was super advanced. Talking in fluent sentences at the age of two and being able to write and spell basic three letter words before he even started school, he didn’t have the struggles my stepson had. Yet, he too has faced problems with reading and writing at school, but for very different reasons.
Due to being *too* advanced, he is rarely read with. There is no one to one reading and only reads within a group maybe twice a month. Due to the ‘ease’ of school, I feel this has led to focus problems for him and he has lost interest in a number of key areas including reading and writing. This, to me, is heartbreaking as his reading level is exceptional. He reads Harry Potter, Tom Gates and Secret Seven books etc, but since told that he won’t become a ‘free reader’ this year at school because “they don’t do that in year 2 anymore”, he’s left goalless and demotivated.

Well done Premier League!

Initiatives like the Premier Stars programme would have worked wonders for my eldest. It’s sad that it is too late for him now, however, I hope my youngest can benefit from something like this.
I think it’s wonderful the Premier League are using their profile to help children learn the absolute basics in education and they’re doing it in a way that makes learning fun and exciting. I had a wonderful night and I really hope to follow this up again next year and see how many more schools have signed up and the longer term affects on the existing schools.
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