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Fledgling football players at The Swans are mixing sport with learning

Posted on 28 Mar 2023


Sporty girls from the New Scot community are kicking language into touch while they learn the rules of the beautiful game.

Up to 20 young women are involved with The Swans FC, which was originally started to help the group work towards Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

The football team, made up of Afghan and Syrian girls of secondary school age, meets at Kilwinning Football Academy weekly with coaches from North Ayrshire Council and the Academy putting them through their paces at training.

Awareness is currently being raised among North Ayrshire Council staff to ensure that everyone knows about their ongoing responsibility to protect the rights of our children.

The Council follows and respects The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to ensure that all children’s rights are respected and that they are free to learn, play and develop.

Article 22 of the Convention states that “if a child is seeking refuge or has refugee status” then governments must “help them enjoy all the rights of the Convention.”

The Swans FC is a great example of young people’s rights being respected.

Lucy Russell, New Scots Locality Link Worker with the Council’s Connected Communities service, set the team up and explained: “There was a desire within this group of girls, who are all high school pupils, to learn how to play football.

“The conversation started through the work they were doing to attain a Duke of Edinburgh Award, because they needed to get involved in sport, and it developed from there.

“It is wonderful to see them on the pitch, interacting, getting exercise and fresh air, meeting friends and improving their English language skills.”

Kilwinning Academy pupil Nour, 14, enjoys the training sessions with Paul and Murray McBlain, who is an Academy coach.

Nour said she joined the team for fun and to help her social skills, adding: “I think the benefits are that it makes my English better, I can make new friends and it makes me happier with other people.”

Council employee Paul Montgomery has been helping to coach the team since November 2021, and says they have learned a lot in this time.

But it isn’t all about football – the players can get help with work experience, college applications, confidence-building workshops and support at school.

Project Delivery Officer Paul explained: “North Ayrshire Council decided to start the team, mostly because the girls had asked for an opportunity to play football.

“We also help them with employability, and it is all about transferable skills. If you are learning to communicate on a football pitch and you are gaining confidence on the football pitch and you are learning how to be a good team player, obviously all that stuff transfers perfectly into the workplace or further study.

“If they want support in terms of employability, they know that they’ve got that.

“Most of our participants have faced significant personal challenges after being displaced from their country of origin. They have overcome many barriers in their young lives and continue to show great resilience and determination.”

Councillor Alan Hill, Cabinet Member for Communities and Islands is delighted to see the New Scot girls enjoying sport while getting other support.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure our young people are enjoying all of the rights they are entitled to through the UNCRC, and The Swans football team is a great example of how this is happening in our community with support from the Council,” he said.

The Scottish Government continues to make a strong commitment to children’s rights and is currently working towards formal incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots Law to ensure that children’s rights are respected and protected in the law in Scotland and public authorities are legally required to respect and protect children’s rights in all the work that they do.

You can see the full list of UNCRC articles here in a user-friendly graphic: https://uni.cf/2P2l0ZZ

The Council has identified Champions within services and further awareness will be raised in the Council about what everyone’s responsibilities are over the coming year.