The England Under-21 international helped Kick It Out’s Professional Player Engagement Manager, Paul Mortimer, to deliver the session, before answering questions from Year Six pupils on a series of topics including his own personal encounters with racism in football.
Jason highlighted a specific incident when he witnessed Young Lions team-mate Danny Rose being racially abused during a vital European Championship Under-21s play-off match against Serbia in 2012 as one of the main reasons for wanting to become an ambassador for Kick It Out, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
“Like I said in answer to a few of the questions, the main one was the England-Serbia game,” said the 22-year-old. “Right from the fans to the way a lot of their staff reacted after the game, it was quite incredible. I’ve never seen anything like that before and obviously when the opportunity came to get involved with the campaign, that sprung to mind and I jumped at the chance to be on board.”
Jason showed a real eagerness to tell the local schoolchildren about his experiences and was enthused by the reaction of the pupils. “Coming down to the school, you never quite know what reaction you’re going to get from the young kids, but seeing their faces light up and the enthusiasm to get involved and be a part of it, it was refreshing to see,” he added.
“They rifled out some good questions and hopefully they picked up one or two things and they take on board what Paul spoke about, coupled with my answers. If you can ingrain in them the rights and the wrongs from a young age, then it will stand them in good stead for the future.”
Paul Mortimer, a former England Under-21 international midfielder himself, credited the schoolchildren for their responsiveness and reserved special praise for Jason and the level of engagement he showed throughout the visit.
He said: “The Next 20 is about 20 bright young players, male and female, up and down the country, who, on our behalf, go into their communities to raise awareness around inclusion, inequality and discrimination and that’s what Jason’s visit has all been about.
“We put on an anti-discrimination workshop and the children had the opportunity, based on what they learnt, to ask Jason as many questions as possible around discrimination, racism and his experiences.
“I’ve got to say, the questions were fantastic and Jason dealt with them absolutely brilliantly. It was a terrific event. The children were absolutely fantastic and they clearly absorbed the workshop really well going by the questions they asked Jason.
“Jason was fantastic and a credit to the club. The pupils really gave him some tough questions to deal with and his answers were mature and made the pupils really think. It’s hugely important to have the likes of Jason on board, because they’re the idols, they’re the people that these young kids watch and act like. So players have a responsibility to conduct themselves correctly.”
Teaching assistant Lauren O’Neill, from Sacred Heart, added: “Jason's visit was a fantastic culmination to the Kick It Out workshop. His first-hand experience of witnessing racist abuse was vital in moving the children's understanding forward. They have been energised to challenge racism thanks to his support.”