Defender Mike Williamson made a surprise visit to Walkergate Primary School on Monday to help Newcastle United Foundation launch a brand new schools football coaching initiative.
The Premier League School Sports Project will see the Magpies' charity offer a package to 48 primary schools this year which will include in-school coaching, after-school clubs, competitions and teacher training. The project will run for three years in total and will reach 7,200 children across 200 schools.
The Foundation celebrated its fifth birthday this year and this project is part of its new five-year plan to extend its reach into even more schools, promoting everyday physical activity among children. The overriding aim is to encourage both girls and boys to take part in regular sport and physical activity in line with the Government's aim to improve coaching for the youngest pupils in every state primary school and to inspire the Olympic and Paralympic stars of the future.
Williamson said: "This is a fantastic project and one I'm delighted to support. The Newcastle United Foundation does an incredible amount of good work throughout the region and this latest initiative is typical of that.
"It's vital that we encourage greater and more convenient access to sport in schools and this is a perfect way to do so."
Schools in Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside and Northumberland who sign up will receive a 12 week coaching programme for their pupils in years one and two. To encourage children to continue playing football, each school will be offered an after school club.
On top of that will be inter-school tournaments in each half term and teacher training events for 40 teachers. In year one, the project will culminate in the heats and semi-finals of the Premier League Schools Tournament where one school will represent Newcastle United at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium at the end of the season.
To oversee the whole programme the Foundation has appointed a new Football Development Officer, Giles Sandercock, with sole responsibility for school football.
Working alongside Giles are four area development offers who are working closely with primary schools in each of the four local authority areas. The Foundation team will work with the Club's Academy to ensure promising players can progress. Likewise, talented girls will be identified for the Foundation's Girls Player Development Centres.
Newcastle United Foundation was founded in August 2008 and has since raised more than £4m, which has been re-invested directly into community sports, health and educational projects which have reached a staggering 139,000 children, young people and families. It now employs 40 full time staff alongside a further 15 sessional coaches.
To register an interest in your school being part of the programme, email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 0191 201 8451.