Joe’s Journey

Like most teenagers, Joe, from Sheffield, wasn’t sure what to do in life or what options were available to him for his future; until he did NCS with Sheffield United Football Club back in the summer of 2012.

Joe was one of the first teens to take part in NCS, not knowing the impact it would have on his life. He was part of the first and only national graduation that took place at the O2 Arena in London which was followed by a seat at Wembley to watch England in a World Cup Qualifier.

At the time, Joe felt that learning in a classroom environment wasn’t for him and he was adamant about not going into further education, until Chris Bailey, who was Education Manager at Sheffield United Community Foundation opened Joe’s eyes to the opportunities at the Club.

Eventually, Joe enrolled onto a Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport with Sheffield United and went on to achieve a First Class BSc (Hons) in Sport Development with Coaching at Sheffield Hallam University.

Chris Bailey, now Head of Sheffield United Community Foundation, met Joe on NCS in 2012:

“Joe was a bit of a challenge to start with, but the investment of our time with him paid off tenfold. Two years after Joe had achieved a Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport, he earned himself a place at University.

“Not to mention, Joe represented SUFC in the Futsal National Finals, winning trophies and accolades along the way. Not bad for someone who didn’t want to go on and continue his studies.”

Whilst studying at University, Joe volunteered his time on the NCS programme, drawing on his experience to support other teens on the programme at a number of south Yorkshire Clubs including Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday before eventually landing a full time role as NCS Recruitment Engagement Officer at Sheffield United.

Joe spoke about NCS:

“NCS and Sheffield United really opened my eyes to opportunities I didn’t know were available.

“Working full time on NCS is an incredible. I am now in a privileged position to give back to NCS and support teenagers who were in similar situation to me.” 

Chris was delighted to have Joe full time on the programme where he started his journey six years ago:

“When I found out Joe had applied to join the Foundation as an employee on NCS, I knew instantly that we had a very trustworthy and committed young man.

“Fortunately our NCS Manager thought the same, and Joe became an employee in 2018. It’s amazing what you can achieve by saying yes to the programme.”


Sheffield United are 1 of 22 other clubs across the EFL and Premier League who will be hosting an NCS Match Day in February. NCS Match Day is an annual event championed by EFL Trust to celebrate the positive impact that young people are having in local communities across the country. The club’s first team players will have an important role to play by warming up in NCS branded t shirts and meeting programme graduates.

To find out more about NCS visit:

Degree Apprenticeships Benefit the Employer and the Employees

How Degree Apprenticeships benefit the Employer and the Employee:  Chris and Oxford United Community Trust’s Story

School and mainstream academic learning can be a narrow pathway at a very specific time, early in your life. If pure academic learning is not for you or you’re not ready to learn in your formative years, then you often miss out on the chance of qualifications that could at some point affect your career progression.   A degree apprenticeship is a new way for someone in work to improve their knowledge and qualifications, benefiting both the individual and the business they work for.

Chris Lowes, Head of Operations at Oxford United Community Trust, is one person in our network that is currently benefiting from a degree apprenticeship.

“I’m not really academic.  I struggled to learn at school and ended up leaving with no GCSE’s.  Having Dyslexia doesn’t help. I wouldn’t say it’s the root cause of everything but it meant I struggled with written work. After school I went straight into part time work with the football club as a coach on minimum wage. Over the years I’ve worked my way up through various positions at the Trust.”

Chris was recently appointed Head of Operations, atop job at Oxford Community Trust.  Despite his success at Oxford, Chris has always been concerned about his lack of formal qualifications.

Chris continues, “I always regretted not having more qualifications and as my career developed I regretted it even more because I know that I have the knowledge and potential to succeed.  I thought about doing night school, or day release many times, but the cost was too much and the time it takes out of your life put me off when trying to balance a full time job. However, a degree apprenticeship doesn’t have those constraints, so it’s an opportunity that I jumped at.”

Degree apprenticeships have less effect on a student’s life, as they combine working with studying part-time at a university. Apprentices are employed throughout the programme and spend part of their time at university and the rest with their employer. This can be on a day-to-day basis or in blocks of time, depending on the programme and requirements of the employer.  More importantly a degree apprenticeship also removes the cost barrier, with only 5% contribution towards costs for non-levy paying organisations and no cost for levy paying organisations.

The course Chris is studying is the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship with the Open University. This degree provides apprentices with higher level management skills, core leadership competencies and behaviours. Thanks to his degree apprenticeship, Chris is now getting the opportunity to get the qualification he deserves and Oxford United Community Trust are benefiting from his wider skills, knowledge and expertise.

“I’ve always learned by doing. I’ve got basic understanding of what  I’m doing and why I’m doing it. However, the degree apprenticeship is broadening and deepening my knowledge and understanding.  The degree allowed me to understand the theory and learning at the same time you are doing the job is a great way to learn.”


Preston North End’s Louis Moult Visits Foxton Centre

Preston North End’s Louis Moult was able to relate in more ways than one during his recent visit to the Foxton Centre.

Fresh from his winner against Nottingham Forest the weekend before, Moult spent an afternoon at the Foxton Centre, a cause which works with those who face problems with poverty, addiction and mental health.

The centre is one of two charities that North End collected items for this year alongside Rock FM’s Cash for Kids, and the 26-year-old spoke about the impact people’s donations can have with members of Moult’s family also suffering similar situations.

“However small or large your contribution, it’s important that we try and help others,” said Moult at the Foxton Centre which celebrated their 50th Anniversary recently.

“We’re very lucky to be in the situations that we are and to have a roof over our heads for one, and to be fit and healthy and if we can help in any kind of way it’s massively appreciated.”

The six day donation centre hosted at Deepdale welcomed an array of items donated by supporters and the general public.

From non-perishable foods to toiletries, clothing and gifts for children, the community flocked to Deepdale throughout the week right up until the Millwall game on the Saturday at Deepdale.

Moult spoke emotively on a subject which he knows all too well after losing his mother in tragic circumstances at the age of just 15.

“These kinds of places are close to my heart” Moult added. “I’ve seen people suffer with these issues.

“My mum was an alcoholic and was just 43 when she died which is such a young age and it’s a horrible thing to go through.

“That’s why I want to help people in similar situations and people that were in my situation that have been left with not knowing where they’re going to go in life. I was 15 at the time and I had a couple of dark years but always tried to stay positive and I was lucky I had people around me who helped me.

“Everything I do, I do it for my mum, my dad, my brother and now, my wife and my kids who mean so much to me and It’s made me the person I am today.

“I had to grow up fast; people say you’re the most mature 26-year-old I’ve ever met, but that may be because I’ve had to go through that hardship. Time’s a healer and talking about it has helped me and if me talking about it helps other people, I’m more than willing to do that.”

Moult visited the Foxton Centre armed with selection boxes that had been donated by local company HGS and PNE hats, and took time out of his schedule to play pool and table tennis before making everybody a cup of tea and coffee!

“Some people haven’t got family and that’s what this place does remarkably well” described Moult on the type of atmosphere at the Foxton Centre.

“It’s almost become like a family here; they welcome everybody in and if people are coming here and doing what they should be and they’re on track then I am led to believe that they become part of this family.”

One individual who was able to meet the North End striker was Laura, who spoke of hardship stories of her own.

“I was homeless and I had pneumonia, but then the Foxton Centre helped me so much” she said. “If it wasn’t for them, I’d still be out on the street. I get food parcels, I get clothes, toiletries and it helps so much.”

Louis is also more than aware of the issue of homelessness in communities; his uncle has also endured nights on the streets as he too battled with alcoholism.

“My dad’s brother – my uncle was homeless which again was down to alcohol.

“We managed to get him on the straight and narrow but then he went off the rails again and lived on the streets for about a year and a half.

“Fortunately, he was able to fall back on to a similar set up like this and got back on his feet again and was able to get back into accommodation and is now a bit more happier as a result.”

To find out more about The Foxton Centre visit: 

To find out more about PNE Community and Education Trust visit:

EFL Day of Disabilities: “Many of the young people involved have never attended a football match before.”

To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Brentford FC Community Sports Trust gave a special task to children from our disability projects.

With the Community Trust engaging with 250 children and adults with disabilities each year, it is no surprise that we marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in a special way.

Children from our Short Breaks project, which supports children with disabilities through sporting activities, joined our deaf volunteers for the Guard of Honour at our Sheffield United Game last Tuesday. And Brentford players Emiliano Marcondes, Rico Henry and Moses Odubajo congratulated the youngsters on their important matchday role.

More importantly, for many of the young people involved, this was the first time they had ever watched a professional football match. Sherrie Carrington, whose son took part in the Guard of Honour, said:

“He has been non-stop talking about it – you have certainly made him a happy boy tonight! He was actually really nervous about being a flag bearer, in case he did it wrong in front of all those people, but in the end he really enjoyed himself.”

Established in 1992 by the UN, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims to promote the welfare of people with disabilities and raise awareness of the difficulties they often face.

And the EFL, along with the 72 Clubs it represents, aims to highlight how football matches is an inclusive environment for disabled people.  Chris Tribe, Disability Project Manager at Brentford’s Community Sports Trust, said:

 “We thought it was really important to mark the EFL Day of Disabilities, and we wanted to invite some young people who have never attended a football match before, which made the occasion even more special. It was fantastic to see how much they all enjoyed the experience; not many people get the opportunity to step onto the hallowed turf of Griffin Park!”

Ryan’s Story: How Shrewsbury Town Transformed His Life Through The Power Of Football.

With the Day of Disabilities well underway, we want to bring you a story about how Shrewsbury Town’s work in the community has totally transformed his life through the power of football.

Ryan Thomas is 15-years-old who suffers from Chronic Pain Syndrome as well as severe anxiety and is a selective mute, Ryan’s family found out about the ShrewsAbility PAN Football sessions. Although Ryan was extremely nervous about attending the session when he first began, they have become the highlight of his week, he has now started talking at the sessions to both participants and coaches and says it has made him feel safe. he said

“PAN football is great fun, well organised and I feel safe, I wish that I could play every day,”

Ryan has slowly built great friendships within the group and has even met up with other members of the sessions, the other participants of the group have made him feel welcome and he can now attend the sessions with no feelings of anxiety, only excitement. The ShrewsAbility sessions are part of EFL Trust’s Every Player Counts programme, which is funded by the Wembley National Stadium Trust

The EFL have committed to a programme of continual improvement to make football more inclusive with all 72 clubs and Level Playing Field.  Which includes delivering a brand new educational seminar for clubs, publishing a new guidance document called ‘The Accessible Supporters Guide’ covering the entire matchday experience from ticket purchase to leaving the ground, and much more.

“We couldn’t believe the change in our daughter, her energy and enthusiasm to be more active is amazing”

As part of the Every Player Counts programme, Southend United run special PE sessions that allow all children to benefit from taking an active part in sport.

Funded by the Wembley National Stadium Trust, the sessions are are tailored to meet specific needs of the participants.   One pupil whose benefited from United session is Emily

Emily has always struggled with her physical ability. She attend PE sessions with the rest of her class mates, however she not the most active pupil. She often sat out or refused to play at lunch as she would prefer to read or draw. Emily has learning difficulties and cerebral palsy which means she struggles with communication and struggles to lift and hold objects.  The coaches noticed that Emily wouldn’t get involved with her class mates. She would often get distracted easily and walk around the sports hall and read off the posters on the wall. Emily would prefer to watch the session instead of taking part.

The coaches therefore started delivering in smaller groups to help those, like Emily,   who are shy and lack confidence to be part of the session. This worked well with Emily and we noticed a huge change in her confidence after week four, this is when Emily started to join in. We found out that by promoting prizes that linked to her hobbies encouraged her to join in and socialise with the new students and staff.

Within the last session Emily joined in for the whole session.  Jason who is head of PE at Emily’s school said

 “We spoke to Emily’s parents and they couldn’t believe the change in Emily, they said that her energy and enthusiasm to be more active is amazing!”

Teenagers from Exeter CITY Community Hit the Headlines by Tripling Foodbank Donation

A group of Exeter teenagers have hit the headlines this week thanks to an innovative scheme to drive foodbank donations, that has tripled donations and is now being rolled out nationally  

And they came up with the simple, yet genius, idea when they were taking part in the National Citizen Service with Exeter CITY Community Trust.  This week the group of 13 National Citizen Service (NCS) graduates will see their idea rolled out in Sainsbury’s stores nationwide.

The story really has become a media sensation with the group appearing on Sky Sunrise, BBC Victoria Derbyshire, ITV News and Channel 5 News.  As well seeing their story covered by The Times Independent, Mail Online, BBC Newsbeat, Guardian, AOL, MSN, Big Issue, The Pool.

The idea was developed after the group spoke to their local food bank during the social action phase of the national youth programme for 16 and 17 year olds. NCS graduate, Holly Manning, 17, from Exeter, said:

“After talking to the manager of our local food bank it was clear that shoppers were being reminded too late about donating, with food bank collection points usually being placed at the exit of the store. We also learnt that people were regularly donating similar items, making it difficult for them to get the quantity and variety that they needed to serve the needs of their beneficiaries.”

To combat this, the NCS grads came up with a simple, ingenious idea: pop a branded sticker alongside the items most needed by the local food bank to encourage people to purchase the item and drop it in the existing food bank collection box on their way out.

Holly continued:

“Once we had developed an idea we were confident would help, we set about pitching it to various local retailers. After being turned away by a few we popped into Sainsbury’s and spoke to the store manager who, to our delight, agreed to trial the initiative.”

After two weeks of the labels being in store, the food bank reported the number of donations had increased by 300%.  Mark Richardson, manager of Exeter foodbank, said:

“Teenagers these days often have an unfair reputation for being unengaged with the world around them, so it’s great to see young people being empowered by programmes like NCS to go out into their communities and make a difference.  The results of this initiative just go to show that sometimes you just need a new mind on an old problem, sometimes the most simple ideas have the greatest impact. This campaign has already had fantastic results locally, and I’m excited to see how it can benefit food banks and their clients across the UK.”

The labels – which will appear alongside the top 15 priority food bank items all year round – will be a key driver in Sainsbury’s Supermarket and Sainsbury’s Argos’ festive food and toy donation drive: ‘Help Brighten a Million Christmases’.  Danny Harris, deputy head of community at Exeter CITY Community Trust, said:

‘We are so proud of the young people who developed this project; they threw their hearts and souls into it and it is incredible to think of the impact their idea could have. We have had over 500 teenagers taking part in NCS in Exeter this year and they continue to be inspired by the programme and by each other and are making a real difference in our community.’

CITY Community Trust works in partnership with Exeter City Football Club and provides a range of activities to people of all ages, focused on health, education, wellbeing and physical activity.

To find out more about NCS:

Brentford Legend Kevin O’Connor unites with LGBT+ fan group for Rainbow Laces community match

Brentford’s LGBT+ fan group ‘LGBeeT’s’ laced up their football boots with Brentford FC Community Sports Trust and Middlesex FA this week in a bid to raise awareness of LGBT+ equality in football.

The group took part in a unique football match at Middlesex FA’s new home at Rectory Park, Northolt. Along with four Brentford players, Brentford legend Kevin O’Connor attended the event and pledged his stalwart support for the match.

The match coincided with the Rainbow Laces campaign, which encourages fans and athletes to be ‘active allies’ and to play their part in ensuring LGBT+ people feel included in sport. Run by the LGBT+ charity Stonewall, the campaign is now in its fifth consecutive year, and has been credited with tackling discrimination both on and off the football pitch.

Brentford players Jonny Mitchell, Jarvis Edobar, Nicolaj Kirk and Joe Hardy, who all played in the match, joined B-Team Head Coach Kevin O’Connor at Rectory Park. Kevin, who made over 500 appearances for the championship club, felt it was important that Brentford endorsed the Rainbow Laces initiative. Kevin said

 “Our message is clear: football is for everyone. We have to get the message out there and hopefully events like this will highlight Brentford’s commitment to the Rainbow Laces campaign.”

Brentford FC have already cultivated a reputation as a pioneering football club for LGBT+ rights. Back in 2017, Brentford players and officials watched a special screening of the short film WONDERKID, which highlights the problem of homophobia in football, focusing on a young footballer whose sexuality is threatening to alienate him from the game. Gemma Teale, who is the founding member of the LGBT+ fan group, believes such events have an important message for LGBT+ football fans. she said

 “The annual Rainbow Laces campaign has been really important in raising awareness of LGBTphobia in sport – uniting people to become allies over the last few years. It’s great to see the Trust, Club and FA support the campaign with events like this and Brentford’s game against Sheffield– giving the message thatrentford FC and football as a whole is for everyone.”

Bassam Mahfouz, Cabinet Member for Finance and Leisure at Ealing Council, said:

“I am delighted that Brentford FC Community Sports Trust and Middlesex FA have joined forces for Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign. Working together with Middlesex FA, Ealing Council are committed to making Rectory Park a footballing hub that is accessible and enjoyable for all. Community matches like this prove that very goal – making football a catalyst for social change.”


Schools & Colleges Awarded at NCS Champion Schools Event

60 schools and colleges from South Yorkshire and Humber have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to the National Citizen Service (NCS).

Read more

Blackburn Rovers Social Action Stars

An inspirational group of young people from Blackburn Rovers have won the NCS Social Action Star Awards for their project supporting Galloways Society for the Blind.   Their project was voted the best social action project from the many 1,000s of projects that were undertaken by young people on NCS this year.  Here Shannon and Kelly explain a bit about their project and why they love to volunteer in their community.