School for athletes

The Case for Athlete Friendly Education Centres

Michael Carey explains how several IB world schools are now involved in a joint IB/World Academy of Sport pilot scheme enabling high performing student-athletes to complete their IB Diploma in an extended programme of study while also training at the highest level.

A difficult choice

As they enter their last two years of high school, talented student-athletes often have to make difficult choices between their sport and their education. If a high performing student-athlete chooses to forego education for sporting aspirations, they can limit their options when their career in competitive sport has finished.

The World Academy of Sport, or WAoS, has been working on the issue for a number of years with advice and support from its international sport and education partners, and has concluded that a flexible pathway through school that balances the demands of high – level sport and academic study in an accredited “athlete friendly” school is the best way forward for many young people.


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Rather than developing a new curriculum or school specifically for these students, the WAoS is now working directly with existing schools so that student-athletes can stay on and complete a programme of study within a diverse community and student population.

Educational pathways for athletes and their coaches

The WAoS is probably best known to the international sporting community for developing and delivering programmes for athletes, coaches, officials, administrators and managers to meet their special requirements. They work with some very high profile organisations, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Paralympic Committee and their respective organising committees of future Olympic and Paralympic Games along with several International Sport Federations.

Athlete Friendly Education Centres (AFEC)

Assisted by its International Advisory Board, the WAoS has now also developed criteria for schools to become accredited “Athlete Friendly Education Centres” (AFECs). Accreditation is awarded to schools who provide effective support to high performing student-athletes and promote flexible policies and procedures throughout their school community that allow them both to compete as an athlete and to continue with their education.

International Baccalaureate/WAoS pilot project

Ellesmere College UK

A number of IB World Schools are participating in a pilot project designed by the IB and WAoS that enables students to complete the IB Diploma Programme over an extended period, usually up to three years.

There are currently 18 schools from all over the world, including the UK, Jordan, Denmark, Spain, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, who are participating in the pilot project and contributing the associated research.

Amman Baccalaureate School, Jordan

Becoming an AFEC

To get involved, a school completes an Expression of Interest questionnaire to initiate the process. Following consultation to ensure the school is on track to become accredited, an Assessment Visit takes place with a team of AFEC Assessors, after which, if the school is successful, is accredited for a three-year period. At the end of this period, schools will need to be reaccredited. The time frame for the accreditation process should be around two to three months, however, we have had instances where the process has taken longer based on the consultation process or on any remedies that need to be implemented following the accreditation visit.

Why should my school be involved?

As well as being part of a network of like-minded schools, AFEC-accredited schools will be involved in a specially designed Professional Development programme. This programme helps schools develop efficient structures for delivering support services to student-athletes, design individualised programmes for student-athletes as well as helping schools build relationships with the broader sporting community – clubs, national federations and other sport organisations such as the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.Costs

The accreditation investment  is approximately £3,000 per annum amortised over the three year accreditation period, while the costs of a visit will vary depending on travel requirements for the assessment team.

Other benefits of becoming “athlete friendly”

It’s true that there often is only a very small number of high performing students in each respective school. Where schools have been proactive in supporting their student-athletes they have raised the profile of such issues faced by individuals in balancing school work and sport, and thereby provided positive choices and support structures for students that have positive long term impact on their future lives. By becoming accredited, schools have the opportunity to become part of a network which then creates a large critical mass of students. The AFEC network is growing and we want to ensure sharing of best practice and experience of working with this group of students.

I had a student like this once…

The majority of teachers we talk with have experienced this situation with very talented student-athletes at some point in their career. The aim of the AFEC and IB pilot project is to help gifted students fulfil their sporting potential while ensuring that they can graduate their High School courses with the academic qualifications they will need in the future.


GB Olympians to Accredit Athlete Friendly Education Centres

Michael Carey is responsible for the AFEC programme at the World Academy of Sport at its UK centre in Manchester.

If your school is interested in discussing AFEC accreditation, or wants to find out more about the IB Pilot, please e-mail Anne Louise Williams or visit the WAoS website

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