Hibernian Community Foundation School of Football

School of Football is a Scottish Football Association project that the Hibernian Community Foundation are delighted to be running in tandem with Leith Academy for a second successive year.

The end goal of the project is to develop and nurture footballing talent, but also ensure that the children and their education is at the heart of everything that we do.

We work on the basis that many skills developed while working in a football environment are transferable to school work and social situations.

Communication skills, following instructions, being creative and problem solving are skills either naturally acquired or developed when learning to play football, but can also be applied in classroom situations, in the playground, at home or in the street.

This works by having a Scottish FA qualified coach at the school in order to ensure successful delivery of the programme, with the coach also responsible for the coordination of the project. Coaching will take place during school time after an appropriate timetable is developed by the school, in most cases a subject will be dropped to make space for football, but staff will support the pupil to ensure they remain up to date with their studies.

Pupils are informed of the potential to be involved in the School of Football during their first two years of secondary school while still at primary school and if any parents or guardians are interested they are encouraged to apply and the take part in a selection process which involved interviews with parents, pupil, teachers and guidance staff, technical selection days and teach recommendations.

The player must be of a competent standard, however, as previously stated our main focus is on developing the pupil as a player and a footballer – it is not about selecting the most talented players.

Each daily coaching session focuses on technical skills, tactical skills, physical skills and mental skills, with the coach trying to make the sessions enjoyable. There is also a recovery session in order to facilitate the healing process.

Whilst development of the person is a key goal, so to is that of encouraging a healthy lifestyle. An independent study by the University of Stirling found that 89% of the first intake of School of Football players took part in five or more hours of sport per week – far exceeding the recommended amount of 60 minutes.

The study also showed that pupils had felt there had been an increase in health, confidence and their behaviour at school.

After a great first year in 2018/19 with Leith Academy, the Hibernian Community Foundation were keen to continue to support Leith Academy in the delivery of the project.

Football Development Manager Gary Hocknull believes that it is important to have a tangible link to the wider community for the Foundation and the Club and also spoke of the additional benefits some of the children were able to enjoy last year.

He said: “Last year saw the first tranche of players into Leith Academy’s School of Football Programme and we’re delighted to support on a second group for 2019-20. It is important that the Foundation and club have that link with local children and local schools.

“From School of Football, other opportunities for the players, and the wider school roll, have been possible including visits to the stadium, playing on the Easter Road pitch and educational workshops from our Learning Centre in the South Stand.

“It’s brilliant group, led by fantastic staff and we’re delighted to contribute to a very worthwhile project.”

Mike Irving, the Head Teacher at Leith Academy, also spoke of his delight and states that he has seen it have a positive impact already with the pupils involved last year.

He also feels that the relationship between the school can continue to grow with the Scottish FA, the football club and the Foundation which can only help the project to continue to expand and be successful further down the line.

Mike said: “We are in our second year of The School of Football program at Leith Academy and it has had a positive impact on the youngsters involved. Taking a strength based approach to our curriculum design has allowed us to use football as a vehicle to improve a whole range of aspects across the individual.

“The program helps young people develop their skills of communicating, working together, creativity and problem solving whilst at the same time develops their ability to play and develop their performance levels.

“The success of the work we do with our School of Football is hugely linked to our positive and growing partnership with Hibernian Football Club and the Scottish Football Association.

“Between the football clubs, the school and the families of the players we have a powerful combination which undoubtedly impacts positively on the young people of Leith. We look forward to the program growing over the coming years.”