A FORMER top flight footballer is helping students to achieve their goals after kicking off a ground-breaking new scheme.
Wellfield Community School, in North Road East, Wingate, is the latest in the region to open a Martin Gray Football Academy.
The former Sunderland and Darlington midfielder and coach is running the initiative, which will be similar to USA-style soccer scholarships.
It aims to raise standards and results by encompassing the National Curriculum alongside sporting talent, and will include over 60 boys and girls across all year groups, in its first year.
Academy players will spend one hour each week with Martin’s academic staff, working on target areas of their school work, before spending another two hours with him and his coaches developing skills and techniques for the professional game.
Martin said: “Our vision is along the lines of the American Soccer Scholarships, when football is incorporated into full-time education.
“Having had lengthy discussions with Wellfield and headteacher Linda Rodham, we’re well aware of the target areas and what they want to get out of this.
“I strongly believe the academy will help to raise academic attainment at Wellfield School and just improve standards generally.”
The academic studies will be part of the normal curriculum, and Mrs Rodham is excited about the new venture.
She said: “It’s a very exciting development for the school, it will benefit the school and the area.
“The primary aim is to support students in school who have ambitions of becoming a professional footballer allowing some to realise their dreams.
“Our aim is to improve the standard of coaching at the school and in-turn improve our players and teams.
“We want to have the elite footballers at our school and we think Martin Gray is the ideal man to spearhead this Academy, so we’re delighted with his appointment.”