A manager who once fell asleep during his GCSEs now specialises in transforming the lives of children with special educational needs.

Ryan Hairsine did not enjoy school and took a nap while taking his GCSE English exam in 2011 - which he failed.

He has since completed a 180-degree move by joining Velocity Football – an educational academy based at the home of National League club Oxford City FC.

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The 28-year-old is the programme’s alternative provision manager where he works with 32 students by blending full-time training on the pitch with studies off it.

It is a far cry from his personal experience as a special educational needs student.

And he is pleased to see new provisions supporting children from all backgrounds to become the best version of themselves.

Oxford Mail: Ryan Hairsine“School didn’t interest me in the slightest,” said Mr Hairsine.

“I could never focus and had behavioural problems.

“Only when I left school and first started working with special educational needs children did I realise that was what I wanted to do.

“I’ve been doing it full-time for 10 years now and love every moment of it.”

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The manager's second year with Velocity Football coincides with launch of Inclusion 2024.

The government-funded project is being led by the Youth Sport Trust and aims to boost the quality and accessibility special educational needs pupils have to physical education and school sport.

Mr Hairsine believes combining education with access to regular and tailored training sessions is the key to unlocking the true potential of each of his players.

“Every person is different,” said Mr Hairsine.

Oxford Mail: Eddie Odhiambo of Velocity Football“The children we work with struggle in big classes and much prefer one-to-one learning where they know they’re being listened to.

“The key is trust. And trust in my experience is built in environments outside the classroom, such as on the football field.

“It’s here where our students understand we’re a face they can talk to without judgement so they can develop those personal skills which can be applied to all aspects of life.”

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Mr Hairsine now works closely with a team of coaches and tutors for the programme which includes former Oxford United midfielder Eddie Odhiambo, who joined as head of football this summer.

Recent graduates include Swindon Town defender Udoka Godwin-Malife and Bristol City’s Ewan Clark. 

The Alterative Provision programme within Velocity works with male and female students aged 14 and over with course contents supporting those with aspirations to fulfil a career in sport via industry qualifications.

Mr Hairsine added: “Numbers on our alternative provision and mainstream programme have grown exponentially which is fantastic to see.

“It’s easy to underestimate how much sport and regular participation can positively impact people’s ability to learn.

“By blending the two, we’re developing them academically and building key skills which can be applied in the real world such as teamwork and communication.”

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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