Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson backs programme prioritising education

(L-R): Guy Taylor (TASS), Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, James Edgerley (Barnet & Southgate College), Hannah Marshall (TyneMet College), Paul Chapman (LeAF Studio), Kirsty O’Connor (TASS), Ben Severn (Wakefield College), James Grant (Southampton Solent University), Helen Roberts (Sheffield Hallam University)

One of the world’s most decorated Paralympians has underlined her support for a groundbreaking sport programme after celebrating the role of universities and colleges that are committed to dual career support.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson hit the headlines earlier this year when she published her Duty of Care in Sport Review – highlighting the need for accredited institutions that prioritise welfare, wellbeing and education for student athletes.

The former wheelchair racer, peer and television presenter pointed to the TASS Dual Career Accreditation Scheme as an example of best practice.

And Baroness Tanni was delighted to present awards to representatives from the first raft of universities and colleges to gain the coveted TASS Accreditation.

“The TASS Dual Accreditation Scheme is so important because as an athlete you never know when you’re going to retire,” she said.

“You don’t get to choose your end date. You don’t get to decide when you think your potential is fulfilled. Quite often athletes have a very short time to figure out what they’re going to do next and so education is important for lots of reasons.

“It’s important in terms of allowing athletes the chance to make that transition from full-time sport but also, when you’re competing, it’s something to take your mind off your sport and the pressures associated with that. Being an elite athlete is tough.

“If you’re able to do other things – including education – then it means you’re able to step back from your sport and find some balance in your life. The old adage is that you’re a long time retired and the reality is you need other things to do: education is a really important part of that.”

Sheffield Hallam, Southampton Solent, Barnet & Southgate College, Wakefield College, LeAF Studio, TyneMet College and Stoke-on-Trent College all came through a rigorous application and selection process to secure TASS Dual Career Accreditation.

And Baroness Tanni congratulated all seven on their achievement during a black tie event at London’s Hilton Park Lane hotel prior to the star studded 2017 SportsAid Ball.

“I was incredibly lucky as a young athlete because my father was so keen on education,” she added. “He used to say to me all of the time that education gives you choices. My parents were massively supportive of my sporting career but they were very much of the opinion that I should complete my education before I became a full-time athlete.

“I was very lucky but a lot of people don’t have that help and encouragement and support around them. And I’ve seen too many people get to the end of their career and then wonder what they’re going to do. It’s hard when you’re competing to be able to plan those things. These colleges and universities are putting their student athletes in the best position to do just that.”

Baroness Tanni continues to fly the flag for student athlete support following a glittering career on the track.

And she added: “Without TASS there’s a huge danger that we’ll lose athletes to education and to sport. When you’re young and you get injured – or training just isn’t going right – sometimes it can be easy to say ‘I just don’t want to do this anymore’. Having that balance in your life is massively important and TASS understand that and actively encourage it.

“TASS can help to build a pool of talented athletes who, when they retire, can put something back into sport or industry or business and they’ll have the benefit of those transferable skills that they learned as an athlete.”

The TASS Dual Career Accreditation Scheme recognises an education institution’s commitment to supporting young athletes with the academic side of their development.

Accredited sixth forms, colleges and universities must agree to put academic flexibility measures into place for their talented athletes and provide extra help and support to balance both.

Kirsty O’Connor, National Lead (Institutions), TASS said: “We are delighted that Tanni was able to award the first wave of TASS Dual Career Accredited Centres with accreditation.

“The academic support systems and flexibility options that they have in place, such as allowing students to access lesson resources outside of the classroom and offering flexible deadlines on assignments, make then the ideal places for Dual Career athletes to pursue both their sporting and academic careers.

“We look forward to working with them as part of our ever expanding TASS network.”

Baroness Tanni was asked by the government to review athlete welfare and make recommendations and her Duty of Care in Sport Review was published in April.

In the Education section of the report, she directly referenced accreditation as a positive policy to show that a college or university has the ability to support students following a dual career route.

“Baroness Tanni has supported TASS for many years and we are singing from the same hymn sheet where Dual Career Accreditation is concerned,” said Guy Taylor, National Director for TASS.

“It is fantastic that she was able to find the time to support our accredited colleges and universities and find out about the invaluable work that they are doing up and down the country.

“We hope many more will apply for – and gain – TASS Dual Career Accredition and enable us to build a network of like-minded educational institutions.”

The TASS Dual Career Accreditation Scheme invites colleges, sixth forms and universities to apply to become TASS Dual Career Accredited Centres. These centres are assessed based on their ability to offer academic support to talented athletes.

The Scheme expects an enhanced level of academic flexibility and understanding that allows talented athletes to balance their studies with a hectic sporting schedule. Accreditation benefits the institution twofold – by formally recognising a commitment to supporting student athletes and putting measures in place to attract future talent.