A total of twenty-seven first and second year pupils at St Machar Academy are being given the opportunity to play football during their school timetable this year. This is thanks to funding by the Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities programme and through the continued work of the Scottish FA North Region to ‘The School of Football’ programme.

Calum MacDonald, Player and Coach Development Officer for the Scottish FA North Region and coach at the school said: “The first and second years get an hour a day, so they get five hours a week with the School Football, which is integrated with their timetable.”

Now in its seventh year, the project is aimed at using football as a tool to motivate the pupils, enhance their social skills such as communication, listening, and behaviour.
To get involved with the scheme, primary seven pupils in St Machar Academy’s Associated School Group (ASG) are not just selected on footballing ability, but on a range of criteria. This includes showing a passion for football and a willingness to learn.

One of the training sessions is held at Aberdeen Sports Village with an early start of 7:25am. This is to prepare pupils for working hours once they leave school. Pupils are also tasked to make their own way to and from Aberdeen Sports Village and St Machar Academy. 

The programme’s success is evaluated through factors such as school attendance and academic improvement. This is monitored by the partnership with local authority education departments, school teachers, active schools co-ordinators and football development officers

It has already been noted by teachers at the school that the pupils involved in the programme are more “disciplined”. Calum noted “If they are not pulling their weight in school then I’ll be informed. I will then have a word with the pupil to encourage them to be more focussed on their school work."

Calum also spoke about the sixth year pupils, who recently left school that were the first involved in the programme, saying: “Most of them are now either at university, college or have apprenticeships. So it’s very positive that the programme has made a difference.”

The programme is also not exclusive to St Machar Academy. It’s also taking place at Inverness’ Charleston Academy and being run by Richard Hastings, who won 59 caps for Canada and was part of their 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup winning team.