We talk to the Academy's head of education and welfare, Brian Buddle.
Over the last 15 years, the Academy of Light has grown in structure and status and was awarded Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) Category One certification last year.
Not only does the programme look at the facilities and the quality of the coaching, but also the levels of education for the youngsters that progress through the ranks.
Brian Buddle, head of education and welfare at the Academy, is responsible for delivering the standards of learning which have been recognised by the Premier League.
And Brian told safc.com he is delighted with the progress being made in the classrooms at the Academy.
He said: “The report that came back [from the Academy inspection] said the education was a particular strong area of the academy – that pleased me a lot and also reflected the efforts of everybody that works within the department.
“Over the years we’ve developed a one-hymn-sheet message to all boys as we go through and assist them with their development right from early years.
“Coaches, physios or whoever, will, whenever the opportunity arises, explain to the young person that holistic development is what we’re about and it’s important you aim high in all parts of your development work.”
Buddle added that links with local schools have grown strong and the club is producing fantastic results for the kids who are educated on the ‘day release’ scheme.
“We link very closely with schools on an individual boy basis – so that we can get their ability levels and what they’re currently doing on that curriculum so that we can follow it as closely as we can,” he explained.
“We employ four, recently retired, specialist teachers in English and Maths who know the subject inside out and the schools have been delighted with the progress the individual boys have made.”
And, it’s not just the success of the 11-16 boys that has pleased Buddle – players who have left the club have progressed immensely, with one student now at Harvard University in America.
“[Going back to] the boys that don’t get a professional contract at 18, if they don’t find another club, they sometimes they move on to university.
“One boy – Richard Smith - is in year four of a Sports Medicine course at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. He wasn’t offered a pro deal here, but he left with 12 distinctions from our course.
“Last year, Jordan Lavender and James Brace both went to American universities - one is doing a Business management degree and the other is doing Sports Science.”
Education Programme in detail:
11-16 year olds (Day Release programme)
“This programme is negotiated between me and the school, whereby the kids can come in one day every week to work with us.
“The lads start at 8am and finish at 5pm.
“Breakfast is at 8am and then the kids have an hour of English and an hour of Maths.
“The curriculum for English and Maths is appropriate to their age group within the national curriculum.
“The schools have been delighted with the progress the individual boys have made and, because they’re in smaller teaching groups, teaching them is heaven."
16-18 year olds
“The 16-18 year old lads follow a modern apprenticeship, which is equivalent to three A-levels.
“There are four parts to this programme; it’s a two year programme, with a compulsory academic side of ten hours a week.
“The boys tend to be high level achievers when they come in, usually with GCSE’s at A* - C grade so they plug nicely into the level three course and they do the BTEC diploma in Sport Performance and Exercise.
“At the end of that they have to follow the NVQ level three, which is work based learning and so they gain a further two A-Level equivalents at the end of that two years.
“So at the end of two years they’ve got four A-Level equivalents in the basket to go with their GCSE’s.”
“This enables them to have an insurance policy if the football side doesn’t happen or worse injury comes along and means they can’t play.
“As well as that, another compulsory element of the course is the UEFA B part one coaching badge.
“They end up with 4-A Level equivalents, the coaching badge, referee’s ticket, which is not compulsory, but we do it as part of the laws of the game course.
“The third part is Kevin Ball’s under-21s, they are the lads that come back to us and tell us they want to continue with qualifications – but that’s down to the boy and what he wants to do – it’s not compulsory.
“This is supported by the PFA, whereby, if the player wants to do an accountancy course or a physiotherapy course, for example, the player will enrol and pay for the course, but at the end of each successful completion of the year, the union will give the player a percentage back.”