A Q&A with... Manchester City Football Club

Date Posted: 08/11/2013

Alex Unsworth explains how a school trip to Manchester City Football Club can be adapted to meet specific educational objectives.

Alex Unsworth is the stadium tour education officer at Manchester City Football Club. The club works with thousands of pupils throughout Britain via City in the Community and the tours department has an educational arm that specialises in adapting visits to meet specific educational objectives.

Q: How long has there been an education department and what do you do?

A: I started working as education officer in 2006. We had always worked with school groups but it was my responsibility to improve the educational value of the tours. We invited schools in for open days, explained what we could offer, listened to what they had to say and created presentations and worksheets tailored to their needs.

Q: How many school trips do you host each year?

A: We had 13,046 people last year. That includes groups from primary schools, secondary schools, sixth form colleges, university students and children in their own football clubs. We have school groups from all over the world.

Q: What do you cover in the tour?

A: The tour generally starts with a brief discussion about the development of the stadium and the club. Groups then go to the level 1 seating area where aspects of the stadium, such as capacity, press area and performance analysis cameras are identified and explained.

This follows with a visit to the press conference room. Here they may get the opportunity to sit in seats normally used by the manager or new signings while a mock press conference is held. They pass through the players' lounge to the 2011-12 room with memories of the premiership winning season, followed by the warm-up room, changing room and finish at the players' tunnel.

Q: Is the tour just for football-mad children?

A: There are children who absolutely love going round the stadium no matter which club they support. However, the vast majority of children enjoy the tour as well as learning a lot from it. We receive children who are only there because it is part of their course and they have to attend with the rest of the group, but we usually win them round in the first few minutes.

We are all experienced, trained guides and know how to stimulate their interest. Three of the guides are ex-teachers, two with backgrounds in secondary education and one with a primary background. I spent 35 years teaching Science in secondary education and jump at opportunities to make this subject relevant.

Q: How has your educational offer changed over the years?

A: The year before I started there were 2,865 individuals on group tours. The number has grown every year since then. Initially there were no worksheets or PowerPoint presentations. With many relatives and friends involved in education it was easy to develop relevant materials and make tours more valuable for educational institutions. My wife was a primary school deputy head and helped with a lot of the primary school aspects.

As schools visited, I constantly sought their advice as to how it could be made more meaningful to them. The work is still constantly adapted and tailored to changes in course curricula and demand. One of the landmarks in the development of the educational side was achieving the Quality Badge from Learning Outside the Classroom.

Q: What other topics do you cover?

A: Maths can be brought in on topics such as co-ordinates and estimates. The geometry of shapes on the pitch is also used. English is involved through report writing. Since we have concerts in the stadium, rugby league weekends and the Commonwealth Games were run here in 2002, the scope for imaginative report writing is not confined to football.

There are Science worksheets on the conditions that promote photosynthesis and good grass growth on the pitch; plus nutrition of the players, pulse rate and respiration rate related to activity. Geography is covered through tracing the nationalities of players at the club and information about their home countries. Because of the vast improvements which have been made to the area, there is also a lot of interest in the urban regeneration topic.

Information Technology is heavily involved in many aspects of the running of the club. I developed a presentation which covers a whole range of aspects from performance analysis of the players to computer control of the stadium including ticket entry, gate control, lights and even room temperature in the restaurants.

Most schools run a Business Studies course and we have a presentation which explains the financial side to running the club, including TV revenue, ticket sales, concerts and events, retail and sponsorship. We have a presentation on careers which interests a lot of the older secondary pupils. Very few  realise the full range of employment options available inside a football club. We run a health and safety presentation which shows why this is such an important concern to football clubs and we have also run Drama and Literacy activities.

Q: How do you help teachers prepare for visits?

A: When teachers book a tour they are welcome to come on a free preliminary familiarisation visit. This allows them to pick out aspects of the tour that they want to dwell on for their own focus and to develop any relevant materials. We provide our own risk assessment for teachers to adapt to their individual needs, free worksheets on many aspects of the topic areas and, if needed, directions to the stadium.

Q: What makes a great educational visit?

A: Safety. Teachers need to know everything is going to run smoothly and they want assurance that there are no dangers to the pupils. Enjoyment and interest. Our aim is to capture the attention of the pupils and staff by making the tour interesting and relevant. If they are enjoying the tour, the third aspect - meeting educational objectives - is easy. Teachers and parents want to know their children are going to have an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives that is tied to memorable educational aims and objectives. Feedback from schools, many of which return every year, supports our belief that we are very successful in providing this.

Useful contact:

Manchester City Football Club:
0161-438 7821
www.mcfc.co.uk

School Travel Organiser's Guide