Education programme goes above and beyond for Joe Atherton


Joe Atherton started on the Foundation Education BTEC Level 3 in Sport programme in 2015 and has just graduated with two distinctions and one distinction star after two years studying, which is the equivalent qualification to three A-Level’s.

Under the guidance of his lecturers, Joe was able to excel throughout the course, and Education Manager, Mark Gamble, has been particularly impressed with how he has progressed, “I’ve known Joe for 3 years now and when he arrived he was your typical 16 year old school leaver; indecisive and worried about making the right choice. I knew that from that, he would be perfectly suited to our BTEC programme here which incorporates a practical Futsal and Football element to it alongside the first class education we also deliver. I was delighted to have Joe join the programme as I knew he would thrive and grow in the environment.”

Joe was one of the most academic students registered on the programme, however he started to suffer badly from social anxiety and severe panic attacks. Yet like most suffering from this illness, he decided to keep it to himself.

“I decided one morning to email Mark and ask for a private chat, I sat down with him and explained what I was going through and how it was making me feel. Straight away I felt better that he had taken the time to listen and try to help. He put me in contact with one of his colleagues in the Foundation who works with vulnerable adults and has come across this many times in the past.”

As a Project Officer for the Foundation’s Saints4Sport programme, Lisa works with adults at risk who deal with a host of different issues, one of which is mental illness, and helps them combat their issues through sport, “I received a call from Mark asking if I could spare some time to speak with Joe and see whether or not we could put him in touch with a company called Steps to Wellbeing,” Lisa explains. “Steps to Wellbeing deal with these situations on a daily basis and offer different courses for people to attend and make progress with overcoming anxiety and panic attacks. I spoke with Joe, put him in touch with Steps. People don’t realise that suffering from these illnesses can lead to further problems, so the fact Joe has faced his is a huge credit to himself.”

Joe attended a 6 week course tackling his illness, however, had it not been for the support Saints Foundation could offer, things may have been different, “The fact that both Mark and Lisa took the time to help me goes to show the depth Saints Foundation have to offer, I didn’t see Mark as just my lecturer, but also someone I could speak to if anything was wrong.”

Three months on and having completed his two-year BTEC Sport programme, Joe is on the road to beating the panic attacks and anxiety, “I did the 6 week course with Steps to Wellbeing and I can honestly say I never thought I would feel like myself again.” Joe enthuses, “I just can’t thank the Foundation enough for all the support. That’s what sets them aside from other organisations.”

For information on our BTEC Education Programme visit

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