Head teachers of schools hosting the Scottish FA’s Regional Performance School programme are eagerly anticipating the start of the new term.
Seven schools throughout Scotland have been chosen to house the most promising young footballers in their area, with the initial four-year project representing the crown jewels of the Scottish FA’s Performance Strategy.
The move is a result of five years of meticulous research and planning by Scottish FA performance staff.
Graeme High School in Falkirk piloted a performance school five years ago and has since produced talents such as Craig Sibbald (Falkirk FC) and Celtic's Paul McMullan (both pictured with national coach Craig Levein, above).
Head teacher Lesley Carroll (pictured above) said she was delighted the success of her school was the basis of the model being used across the country.
“Being the pilot school, we obviously faced many challenges,” she added.
“At first we were using the extraction model which meant pupils were being taken out of the school for training.
“We realised it was important for the players to be fully integrated into the life of the school.
“The players now feel part of the school community while still having the curriculum tailored around their needs and being supported by the school network.”
Players will receive a minimum of 90 minutes of football training every day and Lesley said she believed the pupils have responded off the field as well as on it.
“The pupils are focused in class and are keen to be involved in after school activities such as school shows and charity fundraisers. They are highly motivated.”
Mrs Carroll said she was encouraged by the collaboration being shown among all the other six performance schools across Scotland.
“I have met with the curriculum managers from the other schools and we have been sharing ideas and addressing future challenges,” she said.
“Now there is a network in place we can all benefit.”
Motherwell’s Braidhurst High School is set to become a Performance School this term and head teacher Derek Hannan said he was “raring to go”.
For the past four years, Braidhurst has hosted a Scottish FA School of Football – the Cashback-funded programme designed to use football to develop the social and academic skills of pupils.
When term starts on 16 August, 20 talented players will be walking through the doors at Braidhurst to begin their Performance School programme.
“The Performance School set-up is very similar to that of the School of Football,” said Mr Hannan.
“The main difference is that the performance players have gone through a highly selective process based on skill.
“We hope these new players will benefit like the School of Football ones did.
“Of our original School of Football group who just completed S4, the school results are our best ever and the players did very well indeed academically.”
Mr Hannan said the school – under-13 Scottish champions for the last three years – had a “good football ethos”.
“I believe the Performance School project will lead to success and produce players with a higher skill level than we have seen in the past,” he said.
Mr Hannan said he believed having the correct surface to play on is a “vital” element for producing quality players.
Braidhurst benefits from having a world-class FIFA 1 surface - paid for by North Lanarkshire Council.
Prior to that, the local authority paid for a 3G pitch.
Scotland legend Gary McAllister is a former pupil of the school and Mr Hannan said the former Liverpool midfielder would be visiting the programme to impart his knowledge of playing at the highest level.
“Having a former pupil of Gary’s calibre provide some form of mentoring to these pupils will be fantastic,” he added.
“We are all raring to go here and believe fully in the Performance School project.”