As Brentford FC bid goodbye to Griffin Park, it is more than just the players and fans that will be saying farewell. Many others have been using the stadium over the years. Amonth them are those that attend Griffin Park Learning Zone, which has become woven into the fabric of the stadium’s activity over the past 16 years.

Established in 2004, Griffin Park Learning Zone was created with one simple aim: to create lifelong learners. The dedicated education hub has seen thousands of children and young people pass through its doors – accessing a range of educational activities and supporting the most vulnerable children in the local area. With the Learning Zone set to move to Brentford’s new stadium next year, the Learning Zone’s Manager – Chris Barrett – reflects on the centre’s impact and his plans for the future.

What type of projects have you run at the Learning Zone?

Over the years, we have built an array of exciting programmes for the local community. Key projects include:

•           Kick into Reading Scheme alongside the National Literacy Trust.

•           Training football coaches and First Team players to deliver storytelling sessions in primary schools to promote power of reading.

•           Employability courses for young people.

•           Numerous cross-curricular workshops for primary schools including, journalism workshops; orienteering maths trails around Griffin Park, battleships in the terraces and being a “Brentford Player for the Day.”

•           Matchday activities including The Great Book Giveaway, which enabled all fans to walk away from a match with a book of their choice.

•           Targeted school work with young people struggling at school and using the power of football to motivate and help them achieve.

What’s your fondest memory of the Learning Zone?

Fondest memories are seeing an initial crazy idea grow and develop into a project that benefits the young people in our community. Otherwise, its hearing from schools that a students’ behaviour has improved due to attending one of our interventions.

What impact do you think the Learning Zone has made for local school children?

We have allowed them a safe space to be creative and enjoy learning. Our coaches have been able to motivate young people – offering them a more positive pathway forward. We are always delighted to hear from ex-participants who come back for a visit and who have achieved great things.

What is your proudest achievement while working at the Learning Zone?

As a team, we are most proud when we see positive changes in the young people we work with. These can seem little to some but to that young person they are great strides forward in helping them achieve in the future. We have created some incredibly strong partnerships with local councils and schools – enabling us to cultivate some powerful and innovative programmes for young people.

What successes of the Learning Zone do you hope to bring to the new community facilities at Lionel Road?

We definitely want to bring our partners with us.  Another important element we will hope to transfer across will be the learning ethos – something that is crucial to all the work of the Trust. Young people, parents and our partners quickly notice the difference to a traditional education environment and this is what sets us apart. Young people feel comfortable and have confidence to achieve things they may not do in other educational spaces. We hope to continue to bridge this gap – giving them opportunities, confidence and skills to use in other areas of their lives.

To learn more about the Trust’s education activities, email [email protected].