The FBU learners scoring with the Foxes

A Leicester couple used the skills and the confidence gained by learning through the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) to help set up and coach an inclusive football team for boys and girls with special educational needs.

Firefighter Dave Naudesevics and his wife Leanne have both progressed thanks to the FBU’s Union Learning Fund (ULF) project.

Dave has recently completed his Level 3 advanced apprenticeship in personal training, while Leanne is currently studying for a BSc Hons in Health and Social Care at The Open University (OU), having taken both autism awareness and mental health awareness courses through the FBU.

One of 20 learners to have recently completed the apprenticeship, Dave enrolled on the course to benefit himself, his colleagues and his family by gaining important knowledge about health and nutrition – vital subjects to help firefighters cope with the heavy physical and mental demands of their jobs.

© John Harris/

Dave, who works at Wigston Fire Station in Leicester, said:

The apprenticeship was a fantastic opportunity to get a qualification in a subject I have always been interested in.”

Leanne and four of her friends took advantage of the FBU’s extension of its learning offer to family and friends of union members to take the Level 2 autism awareness course, since the couple’s middle child Charlie is on the spectrum.

Leanne said:

The course gave me a really good understanding of the condition and has really helped us as a family.”

With this qualification, I have found that I can now discuss with teachers on equal terms the specific needs for my son, possessing a full and proper understanding of the condition.”

And Leanne’s learning has been central to the role she has played in helping to set up The Wigston Foxes, a football team for boys and girls aged 6 to 12 who can’t join mainstream teams.

The only club in Leicestershire to offer fully inclusive football, the team is affiliated to Leicestershire and Rutland Inclusive Football League and the Football Association (FA) and plays in monthly FA tournaments.

© John Harris/

Lenna explained:

The founding of the football team makes all the study worthwhile.”

It has also massively contributed to the children’s development, she points out.

For example, one boy used to need to be helped on the pitch during games by his dad but as his confidence grew through taking part, he stopped needing that support, Leanne says.

Much to his dad’s relief, he can now enjoy the game from the touchline along with the other mums and dads.”

And in another sign of the progress he has made since playing with the team, the same boy is now ready to go to school for the first time.

Leanne and Dave have also encouraged more of the parents involved in the team to undertake the autism awareness course through the FBU and shared the learning opportunities available through the FBU with other league committee members and members of the FA itself. Dave is applying the knowledge he gained on his personal training apprenticeship to help the children improve their game.

Dave explained that:

Now that I have qualified as a fitness instructor, I will use my knowledge to help coach the team.”

I am furthering my learning by enrolling onto the Level 2 Working with People with Learning Disabilities course and am active within the Fire Service working with children who have special needs.”

Dave and Leanne agree that learning through the FBU has helped them both develop themselves in ways they wouldn’t have expected.

Dave said:

The opportunities provided by the ULF have really proved a catalyst for both Leanne and myself.”

Leanne agrees:

No harm can come from learning – there is always something new to find out and the more knowledge people have, the better it will be for Charlie’s future.”

This story first appeared in The Learning Rep Summer 2018 edition. Download a copy here.