Brent Lewis and colleagues at The FAR Academy are the proud winners of the Canterbury Business Awards 2017 - another amazing group of people promoting skateboarding within education to change lives.
The FAR Academy is the UK’s first and only professional skateboard and longboard deck building and design academy. In 2014, a base for the Academy was established in Canterbury, Kent.
Established in 2009 by Brent Lewis, the academy is a Community Interest Company which provides an alternative teaching style for young people who have become disengaged with traditional classroom based education. The emphasis is on creating a positive attachment to learning. Their bespoke programmes equip young people with the qualifications and skills they need to flourish.
As a young boy, mainstream education was not something that Brent excelled at and he struggled to 'fit in'. When he started skating, his passion and commitment to better himself grew out of his determination to become a better skater. He left school without qualifications and found work labouring on a building site. As his own skills developed he found that he had a natural ability for teaching the new recruits and this was something that he really enjoyed. Brent decided to finish his education in order to become a teacher.
Fast forward through the years and Brent is now a well-qualified professional teacher and a leader in the field of alternative education with a proven track record of raising attainment. He had a vision for a school where students who did not fit into mainstream education, like himself, would be inspired and engaged to make a positive future for themselves and not be written off, as so many are.
Primarily, the academy teaches a post-16 NCFE qualification in Business and Enterprise - with a 100% pass rate! - this is based around the design and build of custom skateboards and other related merchandise. In addition, they work with all students aged 11-19 in re-engagement programmes, open skate sessions, skate lessons, birthday parties, community engagement days and skate events. The academy is totally inclusive, welcome, including NEETs (not in education, employment or training), LACs (looked after children) and SEN (special educational needs). They also partner with around 10 others secondary schools, enabling their students to access The FAR Academy's alternative curriculum provision.
Alongside the academy, a successful skate shop has been set up - The FAR Skateboard Company. This enables them to connect with skaters from all over Kent and the world. This enables the students to see how the business is run and also sell their work on the website, encouraging them to start up their own initiative.
Through this, the academy has made connections with some of the world's most successful skaters who are also great entrepreneurs themselves. This is a great inspiration to the students and have Mike Vallely coming from California to visit the Academy very soon. Mike has expressed a great interest in their work and has become one of their main supporters.
The Academy has also made connections with Extreme and secured their backing for their Skate events. Planning and running skate events is an integral part of the post-16 course and the five events that are planned to take place this year form a crucial part of their marketing strategy.
And if all that isn't enough, they are also involved, in an advisory support role, with a new company that is planning to build a skate park and community area in Canterbury.
If you would like to help the Academy, they currently have a Kickstarter project running to raise funds for a laser cutter and other equipment. This will enable them to increase the skills they teach and improve the quality of products made and sold as part of their entrepreneurial venture.
Words and Pictures: Andrea Brent/The FAR Academy.