Thursday, 19th July 2018

A South Tyneside College apprentice who specialises in promoting football to females has been given a fresh sporting chance to progress her career.

Alex Fontaine, 18, has won a second year of funding from a national FA-backed programme to get more girls playing soccer.

She is one of only four Women and Girls Football Apprentices in the country to gain the £7,000 support two years running.

The initiative, which started nationally last year, gives financial backing to colleges to take on an apprentice, with someone different enrolled each year.

But her tutors were so impressed by Alex’s talent and commitment that they applied for her to continue her training, but at a higher level.

The FA and the Association of Colleges (AoC), which have jointly developed the training model, agreed to their request.

In September 2018, Alex is expected to progress from a Level 3 Sports Development qualification to a Level 4 Leadership and Management course.

Alex, who is from South Shields, said: “It’s great for me personally to have gained another year of support, but good also for the people and places where I have made positive relationships.

“I love sport but especially football, and so it’s really enjoyable to promote it to girls who may never have considered playing or lacked the confidence to do so.

“I’m really enjoying my apprenticeship and can’t wait to progress onto a level four programme.”

Alex’s successes include the development of PE lessons at Jarrow Cross Primary School, in Borough Road, Jarrow.

Headteacher Susan McBeth said: “Alex has been inspirational in her support for our pupils and to their enjoyment of playing football.

“She has helped to create a vibrant and exciting atmosphere in which our learners are happy and willing participants.

“As a school, we are very keen to support physical activities for our pupils’ better health and wellbeing, and Alex is playing an important role in that.

“Her success in gaining funding to continue her work for a second year is very much deserved.”

The apprenticeship has been developed partly to counter figures which show only 45 per cent of girls have played football by the age of 10, compared to 85 per cent of boys.

In her role, Alex aims to double the number of women and girls participating in the beautiful game in the college’s catchment area.

She does this by working with schools and the community to recruit 100 new female participants and 10 female leaders.

Rob Grainey, Head of Commercial Services at South Tyneside College, said: “Alex has shown tremendous commitment to learning and to helping other girls become involved in football.

“The apprenticeship has been an exciting opportunity for her to promote a sport she loves to other young people while showing that she has the ability to make a great job of it.

“She has shown enthusiasm and passion for the role and demonstrated that she is prepared to work hard to make the apprenticeship a success.

“Alex has even developed very strong links with pupils at Jarrow Cross Primary School, where she now takes PE lessons.”

Alex also targets increasing the number of females volunteering as organisers, coaches, referees, and to engage more from ethnic minority groups as players and volunteers.

Increasing the number of players aged eight to 11 at Key Stage 2 and supporting their transition into secondary school and community football, is also part of her brief.

And focus falls on supporting participation for 15 and 16-year-olds as they move into college or community soccer.

Alex has also completed her FA Level 1 qualification and is working towards level 1 in Futsal, a sport similar to five-a-side football but demanding greater skills.

She has developed additional skills by attending local workshops and professional development events, such as with the County FA and County Sports Partnership.

The package has already seen her spend two days at St George’s Park, the England team’s national training ground.

And she has also undergone an AoC Sport and the FA-organised learning and development programme.

At the close of her level 4 course, Alex’s options will include moving into full-time coaching, working in a primary school or other linked employment, or progressing to university.

Her apprentice has been funding through a grant from AoC Sport in partnership with the FA.