A is for Arsenal. B is for Beckham. C is for Chelsea. It's hard to think of a more compelling vehicle for soccer-mad children to brush up on literacy skills than through spelling out the culture and practice of the game. Which is why hundreds of children in London and beyond attend Arsenal Football Club's Double Club every week. Arsenal, based in north London, beat Southampton to win the FA Cup Final at Cardiff Millennium stadium in May, but it was the team's double winning season - premier league and FA Cup - in 1998 that inspired Alan Sefton, head of Arsenal in the Community, to set up the Double Club to celebrate his side's triumphs and give something back to the community by helping children with their learning in schools. Funding for the club comes from Britain's locally administered New Opportunities Funds. 'I've always passionately believed that soccer can have an influence on educating children,' says Sefton. 'We can make them more interested in learning through the game. So we go into schools and, knowing how teachers are overburdened as it is, provide them with a structured programme of 'gameified' materials to make it fun and volunteers who are attractive to children to help them.' All the reading and writing in the programme is related to soccer and its luminous players, drawing on children's love of the game as well as their almost uncanny grasp of soccer facts, like the young fanatic in Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch. How on earth do seven- and eight-year-olds remember that it was Andy Cole who scored the winner for Blackburn against Tottenham to win the Worthington Cup for his new club? Who knows? But they do, and being able to apply that knowledge in a learning situation gives them a real surge of confidence. The programme is delivered by young soccer-loving volunteers who work either alongside Double Club co-ordinator Scott Cohen, a former PE and maths teacher, or teachers from the school. The children do 45 minutes of reading and another 45 minutes of soccer to keep them sweet, give them exercise and learn skills. The patina of glamour that accompanies professional soccer draws both volunteers and pupils to the scheme. The young volunteers are mainly recruited from sixth form colleges and selected on the basis of their appropriateness as role models. The training course they attend is designed to equip them with basic tutoring skills, including behaviour management, shared reading techniques and child protection matters. They also learn soccer coaching skills. At City and Islington College, a local recruiting ground for volunteers, involvement with the Double Club curriculum as a 12-week course leads to a Junior Team Managers' Award, which enables them to be employed as paid soccer coaches. Uniquely, the Double Club follows a prepared, 24-week programme of lesson plans based on materials that Arsenal has produced, featuring photographs of the players in various literacy games and exercises. Schools use the programme in different ways. The Islington Arts and Media School is running it in school time, training Year 10 volunteers to work with a group of Year Seven children with special needs. In another version of the scheme, a group of disaffected girls from Highbury Grove School visit Arsenal to work with a learning mentor on the materials there. The programme can be used either in curriculum time or after school. 'There is scope to stretch the materials and I'm adding on extensions to take it further,' he said. While there has been no independent evaluation of the project, anecdotal evidence from teachers and test results of children who have participated in Double Club set against those who haven't, show that participating children have improved their confidence and attainment in literacy and have outperformed other groups. Says Alan Sefton: 'We've gone into this because there are so many kids disaffected from their learning, and soccer is such a good way of motivating them.'