As part of their commitment to grassroots football and education in East London and Essex, the West Ham United Foundation run an innovative hub school model across seven schools that are helping to provide fantastic outcomes for pupils.
whufc.com sat down with Simon Cox, Head Teacher at Woodlands School in Basildon, to talk about his experience of the model - a year after they first became one.
"The Elite Player Development (EPD) is a specifically designed programme to nurture aspiring footballers at Woodlands School from eleven years old until 16. This provides a fantastic opportunity for aspirational footballers to develop as players as they are given time to attend quality and intensive training sessions led by coaches that are specialists in their field. The coaches don't focus purely on the technical side of the game as every player has a weekly strength and conditioning session with a highly qualified professional consultant."
The success of this programme with many players (both boys and girls) playing for professional football clubs across the south of England meant that there was also an opportunity to run a post-16 programme. With over 30 players enrolled in the first year there has been a great deal of success both on on and off the pitch.
"The Woodlands School National League team are currently top of the league having won five matches from five games conceding five and scoring 21. Added to that, a recent win in the Essex Cup against the defending champions has given the squad much to look forward to going into 2018. Currently two of the squad are on trial with Leyton Orient FC hoping to secure a full time professional contract.
Simon continued, saying: "Although success is important on the pitch, the players' education is vital and working in conjunction with SCL allows them to explore a range of exit routes post-18. Everyone on the programme is given access to both officiating and coaching courses and is supported by the school in securing coaching hours and officiating matches.
"All players have undertaken a period of community service working with our partner's primary schools, showing them the importance of being a good role model for younger people.The coaching sessions are led by former professional footballers Glenn Pennyfather and Clint Easton who both bring a wealth of experience to the programme."
"Our goal at Woodlands is to give the players an insight into the professional football world and allow them to gain highly transferable skills into a future career. We are keen to expose them to as many opportunities as possible and give each and every player as many exit route options once they leave us at 18.
"Working in partnership with the Foundation has been wonderful for our school and the players on the programme. Our pupils and staff are extremely fortunate that we can access such a great Foundation scheme and I know that this a long term partnership of the highest quality."