About the programme

We ran No Barriers between 11 June and 26 August during the UEFA EURO 2020/2021 tournament in London for primary and secondary schools across all 32 boroughs of London.

No Barriers uses football to engage young people in discussions about inclusion, using the tournament as an opportunity to celebrate differences and promote physical activity.

Using the No Barriers resources, students learn about 12 football ‘champions’, both past and present, from each of the original host cities of the UEFA EURO 2020 tournament. Each champion has overcome barriers, both on and off the football pitch, to achieve success. Themes include overcoming racism, gender inequality, mental health and physical disabilities. Inspired by these champions, young people identify barriers in their school or community and make a commitment to breaking these down and promoting inclusion. Each group then celebrates their project by playing football, increasing physical activity in young people and cementing their learning.


We provided lesson plans, supporting videos, hard copy resource packs and branded footballs to support schools to participate in the programme. BI staff also provided 1:1 support for teachers engaging in the programme.

Player-Escort Opportunity

During the UEFA EURO 2020 tournament, we were able to offer 66 schools the opportunity to select one student to be a Player Escort – a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of the tournament. Selected students experienced walking onto the pitch at Wembley, had a tour of the grounds, were given a special football kit to wear during the match and had fantastic seats to watch the game with a parent/carer/guardian. Of the three matches we was able to recruit for, two of them included the England team matches at Wembley.

A smiling boy faces the camera with the pitch at Wembley Stadium behind him. He wears a special orange UEFA Euro’s strip and holds the tournament ball. He has been selected as a player escort by his school as part of the No Barriers project from Big Ideas funded by the Greater London Authority.

“Our children look to footballers, to the UEFA, for their future. They see the barriers that many footballers have overcome and they aspire to follow in their footsteps. Sports and, in particular, football, give our children the opportunity to see equity in action. Children from every background, of every race, culture, and religion step onto the playing field to be judged, not by the colour of their skin, but by their effort, their work, and their commitment to the game.

In every country in the world, boys and girls go to sleep dreaming that one day they could step onto the pitch at Wembley. Not every child can or will achieve this, but that dream, that ideal, keeps hope alive for many of our young people.

Our children are passionate about football. They are passionate about justice.” Teacher, Grinling Gibbons Primary School, Lewisham

The Player Escort opportunity was a fantastic engagement tool, particularly to engage with hard-to-reach schools and children. Schools were asked to supply a No Barriers statement outlining why their school should be selected for the opportunity. Schools from deprived areas commented on the socioeconomic background of their students, noting high proportions of free school meals and lack of opportunities for students in their area.

When engaging with teachers on the phone, some provided moving testimonies about particular students they would like to select for the opportunity referencing family bereavements due to COVID-19, refugee status and challenges for young people returning to schools after the disrupted year of school closures and lockdowns.

Example No Barriers Statements taken from Registration form for the Player Escort Opportunity:

Example No Barriers Statements taken from Registration form for the Player Escort Opportunity:
Teacher, Lime Academy Larkswood, Waltham Forest

“Our school is home to a variety of children from many different backgrounds. Some children have little aspirations for life, due to their up bringing and home support..
.Being the primary school Harry Kane attended, we have been able to show children that someone just like them, attending their school has persevered to achieve their best and be successful in life, as with so
many other footballers.It is our responsibility as a school to ignite that ambition and drive in each and every one of them. We can give children the experiences, tools and support to achieve their potential. Rather than ‘it won’t be me’, we want children to believe in ‘why not me’

Football is the biggest sport that unites so many children with others within the school, it is accessible to all children regardless of their home life and for that reason for so many it is a passion.”

Teacher, St James Hatcham, Lewisham

“As a school with 92% Black pupils, most children have a personal experience of racism and are horrified that in our multicultural city, racism still exists. Many of their black sporting heroes (such as Marcus Rashford) have suffered abuse because of their race however they still keep on playing which the children find inspiring. The children have found lockdown extremely difficult as many live in temporary accommodation and have no gardens.

Football is a release for many and this is true particularly of our children with Special Educational Needs – of which 30% of our winning football team is made up – who rarely see people that look like them on the main football pitches. We are also trying to get more girls involved in football and are starting a girl’s team and would like more inspiration to help make it a success.”

Teacher, Pooles Park School, Islington

“Our children come from disadvantaged backgrounds, where the opportunity to both play sports outside of school and view live sporting matches are very limited. We have so many children who are passionate about sport, particularly football, which is part of the reason why we started up a special football club after school last year. These children however struggle to have the opportunity to see how this passion could be translated into their wider lives and community, particularly into their teen and adult years where we know what a vital role sports can play. The opportunity to experience the Player Escort would be overwhelmingly influential for those children chosen but also for the whole school.”

Teacher at Robson House School, Camden

“Robson House is a specialist therapeutic and educational placement for children who cannot attend mainstream school because of social, emotional and mental health needs, or who have been permanently excluded from school. Many children have experienced significant trauma in their lives and require specialist therapeutic input. The majority also have diagnosed developmental disorders. It is really important that the children have access to a wide range of experiences and learning opportunities and see themselves as learners who can achieve. It would be the most fantastic opportunity for our children to be part of this historic sporting occasion. We place a large emphasis on promoting the physical and mental wellbeing of the children and try to provide as many different experiences as possible.”

Teacher Belvedere Junior School, Bexley

“Our school is in an area of Bexley that poses many problems for our children and their families. When I put a cricket bat or tennis racket in their hands it’s often the first time they will have held one. I try to create as many opportunities for our children as possible and this would be a memory that would stay with them for the rest of their lives..”

Once in a lifetime experience

The young people who were selected for the opportunity had a fantastic time at the matches – with one student reporting it was his ‘best day ever’ to his teacher. 

‘His teacher told me that it was a wonderful experience. On behalf of the school, I would like to thank you all once again for the opportunity for Adam – a special moment for him and his father’
Teacher, Larmenier and Sacred Heart Primary, Hammersmith and Fulham

Running their project

As well as the Player-Escort opportunity, all schools could participate by using the resources. Schools across London ran PE Lessons, Classroom Lessons, Homework Activities and Sports Days.

‘We did some wonderful lessons based on the 12 athletes who have overcome a range of barriers to achieve success that you provided us with – the resources were great.’
Teacher, Larmenier and Sacred Heart Primary, Hammersmith and Fulham

‘They were very successful. The player cards were amazing. I will hold on to them and use them more in school.’
Teacher, Assistant Head Teacher, Rhyl Primary School, Camden

Barnet and Westminster Summer Holiday Programmes
We ran summer camps over August for young people in receipt of Free School Meals in Westminster. Each week the final day of the camps focuses on No Barriers, with the young people using the resources, learning about female footballers and playing football matches. Running these camps gave the opportunity for another 120 students to take part in the programme, exploring the Women’s EUROs and inspiring female footballers ahead of next year’s tournament.

We also supported facilitators across Barnet to include No Barriers in their HAF Summer holiday programmes for over 2000 young people in the borough.