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Our Free School success has certainly caught the eye.
We've been swamped with congratulations from other clubs, the Premier League, the City Council, fans, our partners and many more. We've also been inundated by people saying ‘tell me more about it'.
About a year ago the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, wrote to all Premier League clubs inviting them to consider the opportunities presented by Free Schools. Blessed with some of the best educational minds in the country, the Club and Everton in the Community decided to ‘go for it' and a team of us went to meet the Minister.
From the outset, Everton in the Community saw the potential; the potential to make a significant contribution to education on Merseyside and the opportunity to make a real difference in ‘hard to fix' areas. They also saw a project which complements the Club's values and enhanced the Club's strategy of community-based engagement. They were excited from the start and the ‘educational minds', Everton season ticket holders and shareholders amongst them, set to work.
It's fair to say the Club was also excited but, in equal measure, acutely conscious of our responsibilities to our fans, and moreover, to the pupils and future generations of pupils. Accordingly, we set some tough conditions before giving our blessing.
Taking on a school seemed like a daunting prospect. It's hard to think of anything that carries more responsibility and we sought assurances on our ability to succeed, our ability to commit to the long-term and the levels of risk - reputational risk to the Club and financial risk to Everton in the Community. All boxes were ticked. All assurances were received. In short, the school won't put pressure on resources or finances.
As anyone who knows their history knows, we like to be first, we like to be innovative and we like a challenge. Having our own school is next in line in that tradition. Securing the award also underlines how others believe in what we're doing. It's clear to me that we are a widely-respected club with sound values, sound management and a track record that people believe in. To win the award, up against so much competition, is something we should be very proud of.
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