Crawley school's football academy, which partners with Chelsea FC, celebrates 15th anniversary

Quindecennial celebrations kick off at Thomas Bennett Community College Football Academy as it scores its 15th successful year running at the school.

The programme, now in partnership with Chelsea FC Foundation, originated with Academy Director in 2006 with just 14 students, and it has grown exponentially since then into the largest and most successful football programme in Sussex with over 100 students attending across the boys and girls groups.

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Stuart Smith, Headteacher of Thomas Bennett, said: “The Football Academy not only gives our students a pathway into the sporting industry, but also prepares them for their future beyond. It is testament to the standard of the programme and the environment it creates that three former students have returned as staff after gaining teaching qualifications.”

Academy coaches celebrate

“It really is incredible to see how much our programme has grown and developed over the last 15 years. We are very proud when we look back at the success stories of our students who have gone off to universities in the UK, gained football scholarships to the US and those who are now working in a huge number of varied careers”, said Chris Jones, director of the Football Academy Programme.

The Academy programme is a full-time course for students aged 16-19 years, incorporating both full-time football training with further education. Working in association with Chelsea FC Foundation, students have the best of both worlds by having professional level football provision, whilst still being able to continue their studies in the school environment.

As well as their football programme, students study full time with 3 A-Levels in sport and an assortment of different courses on offer. Each student profile is looked at individually to ensure they have the right course choice for them. Those who are more vocationally skilled have the opportunity to FA coaching qualifications alongside nationally recognised awards in teaching and coaching.

Recruitment for September 2022 has now started for students currently in Year 11. Thomas Bennett holds its Sixth Form Open Evening on Thursday 14th October where prospective players can look around facilities and gain more information. Trials will then run on Monday 25th October at the school’s 3G training pitch.

The academy at Thomas Bennett celebrates 15 years

“The programme’s genuine strength is having staff who are both UEFA qualified coaches as well as teachers. This allows us to create an environment where all players can develop on and off the pitch and ensure that both are on track as well as supporting the excellent relationships we have with students”, added Jones.

Students will take part in a full time training programme which will cover technical, tactical and physical elements of football to an elite level, helping players to develop both their ability and understanding of the game. Teams will compete in U19’s leagues and play friendlies with Elite level academies to help them transfer their learning into real game scenarios.

Nick Brown, Chelsea FC Foundation’s Development Officer for Sussex and Kent, commented, “Our development programme has been operating in Crawley for ten years so we are delighted to be working with Thomas Bennett Community College on this Academy. It will help to further develop football in the Crawley area. UEFA qualified coaches will work with

students to manage the squad members in training sessions and in competitive league fixtures. Development and success are high on the agenda.”

Celebrating 15 years

All students will be encouraged to continue with their football outside of college and will have the option to utilise the school’s links with clubs in Sussex and Surrey to gain greater experience at U21 and adult levels. The combination of football and academic studies will give students a superb opportunity to graduate onto football specific courses at University in UK and America.

Prospective students are encouraged to email Chris Jones, Academy Director, at [email protected] and look at the school website for more information about the course, trial dates and application information.