Club captain Harry Maguire and goalkeeper Tom Heaton surprised students at Manchester United Foundation partner school, Brentwood School and Community College, in their first community visit since the pandemic began.
Harry and Tom met with Brentwood staff, including Conor, the Foundation’s Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) officer, before greeting students and participating in a physical activity session. The players took part in boxing, basketball, and football drills before racing students on bikes on the multi-use games area.
In his first physical community appearance in over a year, Harry expressed his joy at visiting schools and communities again: “It’s definitely something I’ve missed, coming here to put smiles on kids’ faces, making memories with them and have a little bit of fun ourselves.
“When I first joined the club, I realised how much the Foundation does in the community and while I was able to support here and there during the pandemic, the restrictions made it difficult. I’m delighted to be back, and I know all the lads feel this way too, we’ve missed it.”
Goalkeeper Tom Heaton also relished his first visit since re-joining the club and seeing the work in the school. He said: “Some of the children struggle with communication, so to use these exercises as a way of expressing themselves and getting their energy out is great. You can see the enjoyment is there – I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it.
“We know the powerful effect that the Foundation can have and it’s so important that these projects continue and have coaches like Conor in the school to give them that extra support. It really is brilliant work.”
Brentwood is a special school and college for students aged 11-25 with severe learning difficulties profound and multiple learning difficulties including complex medical needs and autism. It has been a Foundation partner school since 2018 where Conor is based full time, supporting the physical and wellbeing needs of the students.
Jude Lomas, headteacher at Brentwood, echoed the players’ sentiment and how much the visit means to the students: “It’s been so exciting for them; they’ve absolutely loved the sense of occasion. We’ve not had many visitors during the pandemic, so it’s been really special to be able to welcome Harry and Tom. The impact the partnership has had across the school and college has been fantastic. From the start of the pandemic, we received support from the Foundation in a £10,000 grant to spend on whatever would make the students’ lives better, and that was just fantastic.
“Some students stayed at home, some had a part-time placement in school or college; we were able to use that money on an individual basis to support students and their families who were normally reliant on their child coming to school. This had a really positive impact on the wellbeing of our families and gave some much-needed respite to parents and the continuity that the students had missed throughout the lockdown.”
The donation of £10,000 was made to each of our partner secondary schools and colleges during the pandemic as part of our Covid-19 response, providing essential resources to ensure students’ educational development remained unchanged during time away from the classroom. The feature was filmed for BBC Match of the Day and aired on Sunday 24th October on their repeat show.