Debbie Cook’s Programme Notes

Following their triumph on Tuesday you can read Debbie Cook’s programme notes from our previous issue of The Mariner where she discussed the strides the youth team has made recently…

This week I want to focus on the wonderful work that goes on in our Academy.  It’s a focus of my role that brings me huge satisfaction.  Our Academy, headed up by Neil Woods continues to thrive and this was evidenced by two simultaneous audit inspections which took place over a period of 2 weeks last month.

The first audit was by PGAAC (Professional Game Academy Audit Company).  The purpose of this audit is to determine whether the Academy is ‘safe to operate’ and we complied well.  Here’s a few things that the auditors said about our Academy in their report:-

  • The Academy is seen as an integral part of the mission and future vision of Grimsby Town FC (“the Club”), with strong relationships between Academy staff and senior Board members. This ensures that the Academy is embedded into the fabric of the Club, with a key voice in the decision-making processes. • Players, families and staff feel supported, and there is a friendly and warm environment in which all associated members feel valued. • Coaching is integral to the success of the Academy.. •. • The Education and Player Care departments are well staffed, providing an opportunity to continue developing important areas of provision and addressing areas of underdevelopment.

Since the Club underwent new ownership in June 2021, there have been strong relationships between Board members and the Academy Manager, in whom there is great trust. Senior Club staff are well informed of the Academy’s ongoing progress and performance, with an understanding of its strengths and areas for development. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has been visible at player induction evenings and has also been present in some Academy Management Team (AMT) meetings, thus demonstrating a clear commitment to ensuring the Academy remains at the heart of the Club.

As with most audits we received recommendations for improvement, but I was delighted to note that these were in areas that we’d already started to put plans in place to develop; one being a new post that was agreed at the start of the season; a Sports Science post to help develop a physical development programme right across our age groups. We should start to see the benefits of this additional provision in the physicality of our academy players over the coming years.  We’ve already strengthened our goalkeeping coaching provision, with a welcome return of Ollie Battersby (who himself came through our Academy).

The second audit inspection was a Barnardo’s audit of the Academy’s Safeguarding provision. As CEO of the Club, I also have responsibility as ‘Senior Safeguarding Manager’.  In the past year, thanks to the wonderful efforts of Pete Macleod (our Lead Designated Safeguarding Officer (LSO), now running the Grimsby Town Foundation) and the key staff across the Club and Academy, we’ve enhanced our safeguarding resource and matchday safeguarding provision

The last time that the Club had a Barnardo’s audit (in 2019), the report made 32 recommendations for improvement.  The report from the Barnardo’s audit undertaken in October made only 6 recommendations, and again some of these were improvements already in hand.  Our new LSO Vikki is working through those recommendations.

Here’s some of the things the report said about the Club:-

The Club’s Chief Executive Officer (‘CEO’) is the Board level member who takes leadership responsibility for safeguarding. The CEO spoke clearly about the Club’s commitment towards safeguarding and welcomed the audit process. The Board have recently approved plans to increase the level of safeguarding resources, which is an example of their commitment towards safeguarding.

At the Club there is a clear expectation that safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility. This was evident through policies and procedures and in conversations with various members of staff from all of the departments.

Children and young people spoke openly about feeling confident to raise concerns, and named key members of staff who they would discuss concerns with. They felt they were listened to and felt that they could easily speak with staff. They were aware of the LSO, Player Care Coordinator and Education and Welfare Manager and their respective roles. They gave examples of how, following the sharing of a concern, staff continued to check in on them, see how they were doing and provided ongoing support.

There is a clear commitment to working together to promote and protect the safety and welfare of children and adults at risk. Multidisciplinary team meetings take place and the well-being of players are discussed regularly, which is good practice.

Parents told auditors that they feel their children are well cared for and nurtured.

The Club has made excellent progress in developing its safeguarding arrangements since the last audit where 32 recommendations were made.

Since the Safeguarding inspection, Barnardo’s has recommended that a Championship club visit GTFC to learn from us; a huge endorsement of our work.

When I attend Academy Management meetings or meet with Academy staff, I’m always assured by their level of passion and commitment to every single player and aspect of their work, right from our Under 9s to our Youth Team and professional pathway.  We’ve recently offered 9 scholarships to academy players.  My sincere thanks to all the staff involved in the Academy and these two audit inspections, with particular thanks to Neil Woods and Pete Macleod for their superb efforts.

I’m incredibly proud of our Academy and the improvements we’re making year-on-year.  Well done to them all.

Best wishes, Debbie



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