Picture Gallery: First year’s success for Dereham Education and Soccer Academy

The DESA football eductaion programme at Dereham Town FC has been going for a year, and is progressi

The DESA football eductaion programme at Dereham Town FC has been going for a year, and is progressing well - Pupil Joe Goreham. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

A pioneering course combining education and football for teenagers who are best suited to vocational learning is celebrating its first year of success.

The Dereham Education and Soccer Academy (DESA) is a partnership between Dereham Town Football Club and the Sixth Form College and is designed to give 16 to 19-year-olds more options when they finish high school.

The pioneering project kicked off last March and signed up 28 students – now a year on, 42 applications have already been taken for the class of 2014.

Tom Parke, 28, academy coach and course tutor, said creating the course was a 'no-brainer'.

He set up the programme with Lee Perry, academy manager and course leader.

'If you merge education with football then you have an unstoppable force,' Mr Parke said.

'If you were clever then football had to stop. That is a real frustration.

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'Here we can put A-levels and BTECs together and give people an opportunity to be what they want to be.'

Based at Aldiss Park, the home of Dereham Town, the academy runs a two-year programme providing qualifications including a BTEC diploma in sport, a diploma with an A Level, and the option of a GCSE re-take.

The £100,000 venture starts with lessons in the morning covering physiology, nutrition and anatomy and ends with training on the pitch in the afternoon. Twice a week the students go to Dereham Leisure Centre to maintain their fitness for the pitch.

Student Liam Upton, 17, from Scarning, near Dereham, started at the sixth form college before going to Easton College – but could not find the right path for him.

'At Easton and sixth form I didn't know what I wanted to do,' he said.

'I found the course here and it's all about football, and I click on to it much more easily.

'I like that it's aimed at education but that football is so much part of it as well.

'Here you are given more opportunities. If you like football then it's the best course.

'Before I came here I was going to quit all together. Now I feel supported.'

Phyllis O'Grady, director of the sixth form college, said she had been thrilled by how well the academy had done in the first year.

'You can tell who the boys are when they come to the college, they're always so smart and have such positive attitudes,' she said.

'It's a unique course and allows the students to combine both BTECs and A-levels.

'They have all been put through their paces with the team leaders' very high standards.'