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2013-09-25T13:00:00 Updated 2015-02-18T23:56:09

Schoolboys learning at the Academy

A year ago, West Ham United embarked on a mission to revamp and improve the famous Academy of Football which has served the club so well.

The club's Under-16s were the first to benefit from a partnership with the Robert Clack School that is unlike any other scheme in the Barclays Premier League.

Players are both trained and educated at the recently refurbished, purpose-built facilities at Rush Green which will also accommodate the club's Under-15s full-time for the first time this season.

One of the men who was instrumental in the foundation of the scheme was Robert Clack's Headteacher Sir Paul Grant, who believes the project is unique in this country.


He told West Ham TV: "This particular scheme which West Ham has adopted is the type of scheme which has been adopted by Barcelona for example, by the French, German and Dutch leagues.

"They have an integrated school day in which football takes place when the boys are fresh and when they've got energy and enthusiasm during the day.

"Not all Premier League clubs will say this is what they are about because there are Premier League clubs that will just go out and buy young players, but this is different."

On a typical day the players will arrive at Rush Green for 8.30am before attending registration and their first 50-minute morning lesson.

After the first lesson of the day the players will make their way from the classroom and enter the building marked with a new Rush Green Academy sign to get kitted out for two hours of training.

Lunch is then served to the players in a new canteen area to ensure they enjoy a nutritious and balanced meal.


The Hammers' schoolboys enjoy a healthy lunch at Rush Green

The boys will then head over to the Robert Clack School where they will attend two afternoon lessons, and while this means they receive fewer hours of teaching than a regular pupil, Sir Paul insists the boys' education won't be affected.

He explained: "We've made sure that the studies don't suffer.

"We've attached a personal tutor to each of the boys. We do a lot of pastoral work and because they realise that this is a magnificent opportunity they've worked very hard.

"They get less contact time than a child would at this particular age but they make up for it after school with study in the evening because it's a fundamentally successful part of the scheme that West Ham have access to the boys during the day."

Matt Carter and Ben Sheaf are part of the Under-16 year-group who are now entering their second year at Rush Green and both have nothing but positive things to say about the scheme.

Sheaf said: "I prefer it here because you're playing football as well so you've got a good balance.

"I used to have to come here on day release when I was at my old school and it was a lot of travelling and very tiring, having your lessons here with the football is a lot easier."

Carter is also happier with the increased hours of training but is also aware that they need to work hard on their studies in case a career as a footballer is not achieved.

"It's great, obviously we all have banter in the changing rooms but we know when we're in the classrooms we have to concentrate.

"I know all of us are going to try and make it as a footballer but if some of us don't then we need to have the GCSEs to back us up in life."

West Ham's Education Officer Paul Tighe was hugely involved in the creation and implementation of the scheme and is confident that the future is bright for home-grown players at the Academy.

"West Ham built their reputation on bringing young players through and a scheme like this can only enhance that and hopefully the conveyer belt will continue in years to come.

"Eighteen months ago this place was nearly derelict, the changes that have taken place and the financial outlay that's gone into it coupled with the plans for the future and what we're hoping to achieve here, you can't fail to be inspired when you walk into this place."

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