A pioneering school set up in the stadium of a Premier League football club has had a remarkable success in helping expelled pupils get back into the classroom. Now the model adopted at Sunderland football club could be used as a blueprint for the way other schools tackle the teaching of disruptive pupils.
Under the Sunderland scheme, youngsters who have either been excluded from school or are on the verge of it for misbehaviour attend classes at a new centre at the club's Stadium of Light which aims to change their attitude towards schooling.
In the past year, it has dealt with almost 100 pupils – 93 per cent of whom have managed a return to mainstream schooling. Staff say they have noticed an improved attitude towards school in at least 80 per cent of the pupils who attend.
The school uses pupils' love of football to try to turn their lives around. At the beginning of the day they walk through a tunnel to the club's theme tune, "Dance of the Knights" from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. The idea is to make them feel good about themselves before they start lessons.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "This sounds an innovative and interesting programme – which is worth other areas looking at carefully.
"Ministers are clear that too much alternative provision is simply not good enough and lets down young people."