Widening Participation

History and background

The initial idea for Educated Pass came from a request by Ayr United Football Club.

In February 2004, the Ayr United Football Club Youth Manager contacted us. They wanted to engage their youth squad players with education through their coaching programme, at a one-off event.

Football and education initiative

This event was very successful, and we were concerned about the underachievement of 13-16 year old boys, following the Scottish Funding Council’s report on Gender in Scottish Higher Education. Although changes at Ayr United brought them different priorities the following season, the inspiration behind the football and education initiative had been established.

Gaining support

We went on to discuss the initiative with both the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and the Scottish Youth Football Association (SYFA).

A member of the University's Widening Participation team was then invited to sit on the SFA Fit for Purpose Committee, and the SYFA granted their full support of the initiative and offered to provide Youth Football contact details, identifying specific local youth team coaches to approach.

Scottish Youth Football Association

Securing funding

In 2006, we secured one year’s funding from the South East Forum, and were able to fully develop the football and education initiative. Following the appointment of a Widening Participation Officer in October 2006, the initiative was named Educated Pass, and work began on engaging local youth football teams, as well as enlisting the support of partner educational institutes.

South East Forum

Sport as a building block

The project is innovative in that it targets boys - particularly those from under-represented groups - through their coaches and clubs and builds upon their commitment to sport to generate a similar interest and commitment to education.

It uses sports related courses as a hook, but also gives general advice on school, college and university pathways.

As the lead partner of Educated Pass, the University of Edinburgh is supported by the educational institutes Stevenson College, Telford College, Jewel & Esk College and West Lothian College.

The first fully funded year of the initiative built upon the pilot project:

  • identifying good practice in similar existing initiatives (e.g. Manchester Metropolitan University);
  • networking with other providers of sports related courses in the South East Forum;
  • exploring further sponsorship/funding opportunities while engaging new clubs.

To maximise the benefit of Educated Pass, the under 14-squads of local youth football clubs are specifically targeted. The work of Educated Pass thereby coincides with the Standard Grade selection level of the boys in this age group.

Ongoing support

In the first full year of Educated Pass, five clubs comprising 10 squads and over 150 boys actively engaged in a series of sessions throughout the season. In January 2008, Educated Pass was granted a further three years funding by the Sutton Trust. The Sutton Trust funding will contribute to the further development of the initiative.

The Sutton Trust


Dr Neil Speirs

Widening Participation Manager

Contact details