Leeds United Foundation and Southway school tackling average reading age that is 2.5 years behind

A school in Leeds which provides an alternative to mainstream education has teamed up with The Leeds United Foundation to offer literacy programmes for some of the city's most vulnerable pupils.

By Emma Ryan
Wednesday, 16th February 2022, 3:53 pm

Two groups of students from Southway, which is at Belle Isle, started the sessions which run for ten weeks last month.

Southway asked The Foundation, which has been doing literacy sessions with schools across the city for the last 18 months, to come up with a programme for them as many students have a reading age of at least two and half years less than what it should be for their age.

The inaugural session featured a visit to the Elland Road stadium, IQ tests and exercises using pictures and questions and the club will visit Southway for the remaining lessons, known as fixtures.

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Nigel Thewlis, is head of secondary education at The Leeds United Foundation and is pictured running a session with students from the Southway alternative provision school.

They are led by Nigel Thewlis, head of secondary education at the club and featured input from ex player, Ben Parker, who spoke with students about the importance as having education to fall back on.

Parker, a left-back, was with Leeds from 2005 to 2012 and had loan spells at Bradford City, Darlington and Carlisle United and played for England under 16s, 17s, 18s and 19s. However, he had a hamstring injury in 2009 and further injuries would hamper the rest of his playing career. He now is a pundit on LUTV and works in other media capacities.

Mr Thewlis said: "We have been doing it for about 18 months, is based around reading and literacy and fits in with the need of the school. Rather than us enforce it we are making it bespoke to them. It is inspiring and engaging in a way that makes a little bit more sense and is another voice, somebody coming in from outside and the badge (Leeds United) is a massive pull for kids.

"Ben is someone who has had a successful career but had to be resilient because it didn't hold his future. That is a good message for them to learn and to see the value of having education in the background. Not everybody will make it as a pro so you need that other string to your bow."

Former Leeds United player turned media pundit, Ben Parker, with students from Southway school who are taking part in a literacy programme being run by The Leeds United Foundation.

Carl Miller, is vice-principal at Southway and said the work with Leeds United was another way of trying to plug a "chronic" gap in the reading abilities of pupils at Southway compared to some of their peers.

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"We need to change their mindset to see that the next step is one that they can make with confidence."

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