On Monday 6 November, students at Ark Swift Primary Academy in White City were treated to a special afternoon assembly featuring two famous authors and a professional footballer.
Well-known journalists and writers, Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton, visited Ark Swift on Monday afternoon to talk to students about their new book, Football School: Season 2, the follow-up to the successful Football School: Season 1 which has been shortlisted for a Blue Peter Book Award. The series aims to engage reluctant readers, encourage literacy and promote learning through football.
The book helps to explain the world through the medium of football – from biology and geography to physics and drama, it gives an introduction to why all these subjects are vital to becoming a footballer. Co-author Ben Lyttleton says, “We are passionate about children’s literacy. We feel that football is a great way to get young people into reading and learning about the world around them. I’m always inspired when I hear from parents, teachers and children that they love our book and it’s encouraged them to read.”
The authors were joined by QPR captain, Nedum Onuoha, a local role model for many of the pupils, with the club's stadium just five minutes from the school. Nedum was on hand to talk to the students about his experiences as a footballer and how his education helped him get where he is today.
The students heard about the importance of eating the right food, and when to eat it, during the biology lesson. They learnt about Brazil, the effect that learning to play in different countries can have on your technique and even tried out some samba moves in the geography lesson. During the zoology lesson, they discussed the history of club mascots and Nedum shared his experience of avoiding Kayla the Crystal Palace eagle before matches. The day ended with a drama lesson where students showed off their acting skills by demonstrating an array of emotions – from goal celebrations, to unfair tackles, to disagreements with the referee!
Nedum told the students that when he was young, he wasn’t allowed to play football until he had finished all his homework. He also shared what it was like trying to juggle the two: “I started playing professionally at 17 years old, but I understood the importance of putting education first, so was still studying for my A levels at the same time. We’d be on the team bus travelling to matches – everyone else would be chatting and I’d be at the back, studying my books and preparing for exams.” His hard work paid-off and he achieved 3 As in his A levels.
Around 300 students from year 1 to year 6 joined in the interactive assembly and it was a memorable day for the young football fans. Tishaun in year 6 said “I want to become a professional footballer just like Nedum, but I know school is important too. I liked hearing all the tips, especially the one about what to eat to help me when I play matches.”
Principal of Ark Swift Primary Academy, Jason Marantz, said “The book is great and it is an incredible opportunity for our students to meet the authors and Nedum and see that they are real people, just like them. They need good role models and events like this certainly help. At Ark Swift, we really want the children to embrace reading and I loved what Nedum said about understanding the importance of education whilst pursuing his dreams of becoming a footballer. It's so important for our young people to hear their heroes talking positively about education."