Students from Epinay School were left brimming with confidence after completing a unique and ‘amazing’ school takeover of South Shields Football Club.
The collaboration between SSFC, its charitable Foundation and the Jarrow-based school concluded after our game against Stafford Rangers on Saturday.
Pupils in Years 10 and 11 began their process of transitioning from school into work by gaining an insight into the roles carried out in a voluntary and paid capacity at the club, ranging from financial management to ground work.
A bucket collection at the game and a raffle held in the week leading up to it also raised £1,550 for the school.
Epinay headteacher Chris Rue said: “We can’t thank South Shields FC enough for the amazing opportunities they have given our students this week.
“We place a heavy emphasis on preparing our young people for adulthood and trying to find creative ways for them to experience ‘real life’ work.
“We approached SSFC with the idea and they have been nothing but supportive in making this happen. It really has been a joint venture between a family football club and a local school.
“It has been amazing to see our young people involved in the experience, and I have no doubt that it will serve them well for when they leave school.
“A massive thanks to everyone involved, and hopefully this will lead to more joint initiatives in the future with the club and other local businesses who see the value in giving young people with special needs an opportunity to shine.”
They helped to consult with some of the players and trustees of the Miners Welfare, asking key questions and recording the answers to be included in the consultation report alongside those made later in the day by local residents.
Catering students spent time at Harton Welfare and served the players breakfast ahead of training, while those with a keener interest in sport designed and delivered a session for the squad.
There was a meeting with club chief executive Lee Picton and Foundation manager Steve Camm, before pupils completed a management task to help understand how expenditure is prioritised across club and Foundation activities.
Students also met with the club’s head of physiotherapy and medical, Andrew Morris, to understand the role he plays at the club.
Then it was all about the ground staff, with Epinay pupils gaining an understanding of the roles and work required to keep the sites at 1st Cloud Arena and Harton Welfare in great condition.
The students also planted up 10 planters, which are now located in the beer garden at Harton Welfare. The planting boxes and plants were kindly donated by the Supporters Alliance using money collected from the weekly Irish Lottery draw. They complement the picnic benches which had previously been funded by the Alliance.
The week concluded with some students helping with matchday stewarding and matchday hospitality at Saturday’s game, with over 100 students from the school also attending a matchday play park ahead of the match, and several others serving as mascots and flagbearers.
SSFC Foundation manager Steve Camm said: “We are delighted to have worked on this project with our friends at Epinay School.
“It’s always a pleasure to visit the school and this new venture was exciting, and we hope of benefit to the students.
“Our role within the community is so much more than what happens on the pitch on a Saturday. The social impact we create is equally important to us.
“We do so much more than football – press and media, accountancy, office administration, retail sales, hospitality and sports coaching to name just some.”