Everton men's senior team stars James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil visited a local secondary school to witness how Everton in the Community (EitC) has lifted the aspirations and literacy levels of young people.
The Blues duo visited Calderstones School in Allerton to see the charity’s Premier League (PL) Inspires programme in action and meet Year 10 pupils who have been taking part in its popular literacy and creative writing class.
The Club’s official charity has been delivering the PL Inspires programme at Calderstones since 2018 and introduced a literacy and creative writing course at the start of the 22/23 academic year after it was highlighted that literacy levels had dropped as a direct result of the pandemic.
Since the 10-week course was introduced at the school, reading ages amongst pupils have increased by an average of nine months, whilst a recent Ofsted report rated the school as ‘good’, a significant improvement on its previous rating of ‘requires improvement’ and key staff within the school have attributed this increase in part to EitC’s work.
Following the recent success of the initiative, PL Inspires programme manager, Carly Wheeler said: “In our five years at Calderstones High School, we’ve noticed that the trends and themes have changed with the needs of the students, from behaviour interventions to more recently a dip in reading ages.
“It’s been great to see kids feel inspired by literacy as a result of the course, and having the players visit the students is going to help them buy into the programme even more now they’ve got such fantastic role models enforcing that message.”
Assistant Headteacher, Luke O’Hanlon added: “The work Everton in the Community has done in raising the children’s self-esteem has been fantastic. The reading ages post-COVID were a big concern for us – there was a big gap – to have Everton support us with that has been brilliant.
“They’ve given us incredible support. Academically, to see the tangible impact Everton have made, secondly, our students idolise footballers in a way that they don’t necessarily idolise me, so to have other people come in and show them they value education and how they think it’s important is really impactful.”
During their time at the school, Tarkowski and McNeil joined the pupils in a series of icebreakers including a name association game based on books and movies before taking part in a creative short story exercise where they worked in small groups to devise a story including three random items before reading it back to the class.
Funded by the Premier League, PL Inspires is an education programme that looks to raise aspirations, attainment and attendance. EitC works in targeted schools across Merseyside and supports young people who are marginalised or at risk of not reaching their potential.
The Toffees pair were visiting EitC’s PL Inspires programme as part of the PL Supports campaign which is running from 31 March until 9 April to highlight the impact that the League’s investment has had on communities and wider football. The PL supports football at every level across the country, investing in communities and facilities to positively impact the lives of millions of people.
On the experience, defender Tarkowski said: "It's been a bit of a throwback for me as I've not been to a school for a while so it's been a bit of a learning curve for me too!
"Our careers won't last forever so right now people look at us as local heroes, that feels really nice so it's a great pleasure whilst it lasts.”
EitC's delivery across South Liverpool is made possible thanks to funding received from the Steve Morgan Foundation to deliver early intervention programmes aimed at tackling the barriers facing young people in attaining a good education and subsequent employment.