The Stephen Harrison Academy(SHA) is a ground breaking social enterprise based in Sheffield which since 2007 has developed and proven innovative methods that primarily use snooker as a fun way to attract and make entertaining personal development programmes, nutrition, mentoring and employment opportunities for a wide variety of disadvantaged groups. These include young offenders, people with physical and learning disabilities or mental health problems, young people and adults not in education, employment or training.
The innovative activities of the Stephen Harrison Academy are available to people to help them be more successful, lead more fulfilling lives, be healthier and have more fun.
SHA provides services from its home base in Sheffield where people can feel relaxed.
SHA is distinguished by the creativity of its founder who is always identifying novel ways that people can be engaged in learning and positive activities. Once people are engaged SHA help them to progress providing a variety of routes from volunteering to help with snooker, working in catering or learning practical employment skills such as customer service.
History to date
The Stephen Harrison Academy (SHA) is a Sheffield-based social enterprise, established in 2007, whose mission is to use snooker to provide personal development programmes, mentoring and employment opportunities for a wide variety of disadvantaged groups. These include young offenders, people with physical and learning disabilities or mental health problems, young people and adults not in education, employment or training.
The original purpose was to introduce new people to and/or improve individuals’ skill in snooker. However, over time as we have developed we have identified that our theory of change has wider potential and we now provide personal development programmes, education, employment opportunities and social engagement both through snooker and other activities.
Since 2007 SHA has worked with hundreds of people teaching them how etiquette, discipline, good behaviour, and focus can transform lives.
We want to improve the lives of marginalised people, whether they are marginalised because they live in deprived areas with few facilities or because they are different from the majority because of disabilities or learning difficulties. Having developed a relationship with people, often through social contact, we want to support them to be healthier, both physically and emotionally, and to have opportunities to develop skills and work practices that will help them gain employment.
Our activities address health care issues and integration and social issues as well as helping towards employment.
SHA has been successful to date in changing the lives of the people it works with and has a profile at local, regional level.
How we work
There are a range of types of engagement that SHA offers
Regular social contact
SHA offers SETS – “Social Engagement Through Snooker” in snooker rooms. In the snooker room (SNIPS) research indicates 100% enjoy playing snooker. Sheffield Social Services refer groups of children with additional needs to the SETS programme which is delivered city wide.
SHA has a particularly successful track record of working with people with learning disabilities who love the activities and develop skills and confidence. One attendee rarely went out before coming to SHA, by coming to the Academy and developing his skills and confidence he has now progressed to getting a job.
“SHA has been brilliant for his confidence and self esteem. It is something he can participate in where he feels comfortable. We had tried lots of clubs where he didn’t feel included. The staff are brilliant”
We have developed innovative activities based on snooker and adapted snooker balls that allow people to develop their basic skills as well as other life skills such as healthy eating and the social skills required to work with others. We offer training so people can become qualified UK Snooker Award coaches. Within this the UK Snooker Awards are a modular, six step, and train into work programme.
It is activity based learning using snooker to teach literacy and numeracy in a fun and interactive way which attracts those who have failed to develop these skills in a traditional setting.
This is the foundation of our work - snooker offered in our centre of excellence providing social opportunities as well as fun games that teach basic literacy and numeracy - the UK Snooker Awards model is a proven way for service users to get on the right pathway towards FE/FTE.
Learning by doing
SHA always seeks to empower and involve the people it works with and many progress on to become volunteers.
We currently encourage people to volunteer across all the sessions we run.
Snooker is a game that is particularly suited to people with disabilities but currently there is very limited availability both to play and compete so we are developing a series of snooker competitions initially within the UK but hopefully to expand to be international.
The level of supervision, coaching and mentoring required depends on the level of engagement. All the coaches and volunteers are DBS checked and work to a comprehensive set of policies and procedures approved by Sheffield City Council.
Lack of snooker for people with disabilities
Snooker is an excellent game for people with disabilities accessible to people with a range of disabling conditions. Snooker used to be part of the Paralympics until 1988. Stephen Harrison’s father gold medallist at the World games in 1985. However there are now few competition opportunities for disabled snooker players, at either local, national or international levels.
Opportunities as reach adulthood
Research with parents of young people with learning disabilities asking if they knew about any other services their children could attend when they reach 18 identified astonishingly that parents were very concerned about what was available for their children particularly in social and play terms, and the young people found the transition of going into adult services is most daunting with very limited volunteering opportunities are for young people with learning disabilities as they get older.
We work in the areas of deprivation in Sheffield that face many social and health issues, working particularly with young people and people with learning disabilities of all ages. Our research indicates this is particularly critical for young adults with learning disabilities who do not feel comfortable with current adult provision.
SHA has a successful track record of working with people with learning disabilities who love the activities and develop skills and confidence. One attendee rarely went out before coming to SHA, by coming to the Academy and developing his skills and confidence he has now progressed to getting a job.