CASH from the Premier League, National League Trust and the professional Footballers Association is helping make a big difference to the lives of disadvantaged youngsters at a Thurrock special school.
Following their promotion to the Vanarama National Football League South last season, East Thurrock United FC became eligible to apply for a grant from the National League charitable Trust, a charity which is funded by the Premier league and PFA, and they have been successful.
A grant of £2,750 as 75% support to the project was offered in November 2016.
As a result, the club are employing a specialist sports teacher to work with children at Treetops School in Grays, helping them take part in sporting activities that were not previously possible.
The move has been welcomed by Treetops headteacher Paul Smith who says the project is having a “massive impact” on the lives of young people at the school.
After advertising the post and a series of interviews, former Brighton University student Hannah Dennis, 21, from Billericay was appointed to the job.
Three weeks in she says she couldn’t be happier and says: “As I graduated last year from Brighton University with a 2:1 degree in Physical Education and playing for Colchester United for seven years through their centre of excellence, academy and ladies sides this role with both Treetops School and East Thurrock FC was very exciting for me.
“Add the fact I’ve worked with children and young adults with special needs before only meant it appealed to me more. I have always had a passion for Physical Education especially in the area of coaching and teaching, this position allows me to continue that goal of mine.
“During my first weeks at Treetops everyone including the staff and pupils has been so welcoming and I feel I’ve settled in really well and quickly. I am really enjoying the experience and the challenges it holds.
“ I am beyond thankful for all the support the headteacher and all the staff have shown in me which has allowed me to adjust to Treetops life so swiftly. I assist in all PE lessons across all years of the school so it’s a very varied week, I also help run the sport after school clubs and run my own Post 19 PE lesson.”
Mr Smith added: “Things couldn’t be going better. Hannah has fully immersed herself into the sporting life of the school. She has got to know all the students and has quickly established herself as an integral member of our team. I can’t thank East Thurrock United and the National League Trust enough for their support in making this initiative possible. It has had a massive impact on our youngsters’ lives already.
“Let’s hope this is the beginning of a long a fruitful partnership.”
The project, called ‘Sport Steps’ was the idea of East Thurrock United secretary Neil Speight who attended the National League Trust’s workshop last year to learn about its charitable links with football clubs in the National League across the country and the many projects it supports that benefit a wide variety of age groups across all aspects of local communities.
“It was inspiring to see what the Trust and so many clubs have a achieved – and not a little daunting to try and come up with something that matched the ideals of the project.
“However, I have always fostered links with Treetops and the club has a good association with the school, having already hosted games for its disability side and featured young students in an amazing game against a local disability football club at a celebration to mark our new floodlights a couple of seasons ago.
“I approached Paul and asked him how we might be able to help. He explained the funding pressures that the school was under and that he felt, albeit somewhat unfairly and unfortunately, sport got pushed to the back of the queue.
“Through our successful application for funding and our own commitment to support the project financially, we were able to offer to appoint a teaching assistant to work entirely on sport five days a week.
“Paul quickly got on board and we were thrilled our application won the Trust’s support and we are immensely grateful to them and to the Premier League and PFA for backing the scheme. It’s great that we can forge a link right from the top of the game to young people who otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to experience sporting activity.
“We are looking forward to building on Hannah’s work at school with more games at our FutuireFuel Stadium and bringing some of the young people at Treetops to games and to be involved with us more and more.
“It’s just a great fit all round and we are hoping it will be a long-running partnership and one that we will, in time, be able to expand with the support of local organisations and members of the local business community.
“Sport and football should be all embracing and it is great that we can offer this opportunity to young people who are so deserving of all out support.”
Susan O’Brien, the Trust’s project manager said: “Many Nation League clubs are running diverse and effective community projects, and the East Thurrock project is a perfect example of how a club can identify what their local area needs most. It is a very exciting project, and the first time we have funded this type of intervention project. We wish them every success.
“The National League Trust is a partnership between the National League, the Premier League and the Professional Footballers’ Association. The Premier League and the PFA have committed to support the Trust until 2019. They will each contribute to a donation of £1.2m a year over this period. This allows the Trust is to help National League member clubs develop their community programmes.”