The former England footballer Jermaine Jenas has a new goal in life – providing teachers who will work in some of the country’s most disadvantaged schools.
He is offering schools trained staff who can stand in for lessons, along with the prospect of a celebrity visit and a novel way to encourage children to attend classes.
At one school in Nottingham he worked wonders with its worst truants by offering them football match tickets if they maintained a 100 per cent attendance record for the rest of the school year.
The 31-year-old, who represented England 21 times and now plays for Queens Park Rangers, has set up his own business, Aquinas Education, which provides supply services to schools in Nottingham and London.
“I can remember visiting one school in Nottingham – where there were about 10 pupils on the brink of exclusion,” he said. “They had about a term-and-a-half to go and I said to them that – if they didn’t miss another day – I’d get them football tickets at the end of their studies.
“Not one of them missed another day.”
He launched Aquinas Education with his friend Craig Anderson, who was working with another supply agency when Jenas indicated his interest in funding a supply-teaching agency.
Both of them attended the Becket School in Nottingham – Anderson went on to university to study for a degree while Jenas was playing first-team football for Nottingham Forest, his home team, at the age of 17.
“Craig was lucky – he wasn’t as good at football as me and so he had to continue with his studies and went to university,” said Jenas, who was the only one of the 16 youths taken on at the Nottingham Forest academy that year to be offered a contract.
Jenas, now married with two children and living in Hertfordshire, grew up on a council estate, and recalls how some young people wasted their time at school.
He said it was a time when there was “a lot of racism, not only thrown towards me, but also my mum, about my dad and about me, on the street”.
“A lot of the people were brought up that way by their parents and they pass it on to their kids,” he said. “I always knew that to change that cycle, at some point, children had to start getting a lot more educated at schools and in life.”
Aquinas Education is already one of the biggest suppliers of agency staff to schools in Nottingham, and is now trying to operate in London as well.
“Headteachers seem to buy our package – which is the three p’s (professional, prepared and passionate) and like the fact we will continue to build relationships with the school once we start supplying teachers,” said Anderson.