Defender Sam Lavelle and forward Sam Joel are working towards A Level qualifications, having opted against the traditional BTEC Diploma in Sport pathway, which is offered to all Academy players at the club.
The 17-year-olds were eager to take a more academic approach, in order to have something to fall back on should they not make the grade in the professional game, and Rovers were only too happy to help out.
The club teamed up with Preston-based Cardinal Newman College, where the first year scholars spend a day-and-a-half a week, feeding into lessons and receiving one-to-one support in their chosen subjects to get them up to speed.
Principal Nick Burnham said: “We’re really happy with the way the relationship is going, so much so that we’ve got another player from the Academy coming on board next year.
“I’ve got to give credit to the two lads. To be able to juggle a potential football career and keep up to date with their academic studies, which I know is inevitably going to play second fiddle to wanting to be a footballer, it shows a lot about their work ethic, their honesty and I think it shows their respect for us, because we’re being flexible for them and they’re rising to the challenge.
“Blackburn are clearly on the up and it’s absolutely fantastic for us to be associated with such a prestigious football club. It’s been a very positive year.”
Rovers’ Assistant Education & Welfare Officer, Neil Chadwick, said: “Being a Category 1 Academy, it was important that we found a college that is grade one standard – outstanding in all areas – that matched our ambitions and that catered for their individual needs, and in Cardinal Newman, we’ve found one on our doorstep.
“The lads have got to hit a certain amount of hours training-wise, so we’re quite rigid in our education programme – Wednesdays and Thursday afternoons – so they’ve been really good in terms of fitting their timetable around us. With this being the first year, it’s sometimes been a little bit trial and error, but we probably couldn’t have asked for it to be a better start and that only bodes well for the future.”
Centre back Sam Lavelle, who has been at Rovers for over eight years and is studying Biology and Chemistry at the college, said: “My mum and dad are both teachers, so they understand the education side. Things can end so quickly as a footballer, you could get an injury or not develop as people want you to, so I think it’s very important to have a back-up plan just in case the football doesn’t work out. It’s been hard, because you finish training, you’re tired and you’ve got extra homework to do, but the tutors have been great and the teachers have been really helpful.”
Playmaker Sam Joel, who has been at the club for 10 years and is sitting AS Level exams in Biology and Maths, added: “The college have been great, supplying us with extra tuition to keep up. I’ve enjoyed doing it and hopefully I can do well in the exams now as well. It’s been hard, but hopefully it will be worth it at the end and I’ll have two good A Levels with me to fall back on.”