A TWYFORD school is linking up with a Premier League football team to boost participation from girls.
The Piggott School has expanded its collaborative Girls’ Football Academy with Chelsea FC.
Launched in September, the programme welcomed 15 students to train alongside their studies, following the “work hard, play hard” ethos.
It aims to inspire female footballers to reach their full potential both academically and in sport, with students typically studying three A-levels alongside the football.
Year 12 student Beau Burton joined the school at the start of the school year, after being pulled aside by one of the coaches at a match last winter.
“I came along to the open day,” she said.” I really liked the idea of playing football alongside my studies.”
She said the programme offers a “high level of football training”, that is balanced with academic work.
“The coaches always say that school comes first,” she added.
Year 12 student Freya Gordon joined the school in September, first for it’s academic reputation and then heard about the coaching programme.
She said being part of the team has eased the transition to The Piggott.
“This girls course has been really good to put me more at ease, especially at the start of the year in a new school,” she said.
“There’s no pressure, there’s no hostility or anything, everyone gets on really well.
“The coaches from day one have been really welcoming and supportive.”
Chiana Clark, who was already studying at The Piggott prior to sixth form, said the training sessions balance professional football with the fun side of the sport, creating a “good break from the classroom”, that can also help manage study stress.
As part of the programme, students compete in a competitive league and two cups, take trips to the Chelsea Football training ground in Cobham, attend U23 matches and take part in tournaments with other football academies.
Staff at the Piggott School said they are seeing first-hand how the Girls’ Football Academy is enriching students’ academic studies by striking a balance between “first class education with first class coaching”.
Head of the academy Andy Freeman said the inaugural year has exceeded his expectations, and hopes that next year will be even better.
He said the programme was inspired by the pre-existing mixed coaching academy, which has been running for 14 years.
“Through our collaboration with Chelsea, we thought it would be good to launch a Girls Academy for more playing experience,” he said. “The girls that have come on board are a really talented group, and we’ve played two games so far and are unbeaten.
“We’re hoping to push on and get more fixtures played and get the league completed by the end of the summer term.
Ahead of the next academic year, the academy has already had 25 applications.
“We want to see more girls participating in football so ideally we would like to see that number grow over the coming years, but this is a great starting line-up,” Mr Freeman added.
The girls at The Piggott School are coached by Simon Jackson, who is the Berkshire, Middlesex and Buckinghamshire development officer for Chelsea FC Foundation as well as the U16 Chelsea FC Women Academy coach.
Ahead of the next academic year, the academy has already had 25 applications. Although these have formally closed, Mr Freeman said the programme could still consider late submissions , and encouraged any girls in the borough interested to get in contact.