An exciting partnership between a North London academy and a local hockey club is blazing a trail in the provision of first-class sports facilities for schools and communities - and it's all thanks to a unique funding scheme by England Hockey's only approved synthetic pitch supplier Notts Sport.
A state-of-the-art double hockey pitch at Whitefield School in Barnet, which is also the home of West Hampstead Hockey Club, is the first project to be constructed under Notts Sport's innovative Fast Track Funding initiative and was completed in September.
The school-led project has transformed the facilities available for the use of Whitefield students for PE and extra-curricular sports and activities.
Headteacher Martin Lavelle said: "After a year of solid planning, it's fantastic to be able to provide our students with such a high quality surface capable of hosting a range of different sports.
"We are also proud to offer pitch time to the wider community that Whitefield serves. We continue to enjoy a strong relationship with West Hampstead Hockey Club and hope that these fantastic new facilities enable other community groups to forge new, ongoing relationships with us."
Under the Fast Track Funding scheme, Notts Sport provides up to 100% of the funding for a brand new synthetic pitch.
While the school can use the completed facility for its students during weekdays, the hockey club hires the pitch for evenings and weekends to provide guaranteed revenue over a set period to fund the repayments.
Shaun Patrick, Chairman of Notts Sport, explains: "Fast Track Funding is a unique option provided exclusively by Notts Sport and has been the perfect solution for both Whitefield School and West Hampstead Hockey Club.
"The original pitch was 18 to 20 years old and was badly in need of replacing. It got to the point where it couldn't be used for matches because it was in such a poor state.
The school was losing income from the hire of the facility and the hockey club was concerned about losing players.
"Through Fast Track Funding, the hockey club has made a commitment to the school to hire the pitch for a certain number of hours, which means the school can budget for the cost of the repayments over the next five to seven years."
Notts Sport offers the widest possible range of FIH (International Hockey Federation) compliant pitches and over 29 years has developed an enviable reputation for delivering high quality sport and play facilities, and is the only approved supplier of the England Hockey Board (EHB).
Whitefield School's initial contact with Notts Sport came from West Hampstead Hockey Club through this partnership with the EHB and this led to the company carrying out a free pitch condition survey.
The project at Whitefield School involved removing the worn-out sand-filled synthetic turf surface and shockpad layer and replacing them with a new rubber shockpad and a new FIH National compliant monofilament sand-dressed hockey surface in green.
While the facility provides a high-quality synthetic turf pitch for hockey, it is also suitable for a range of sports and activities, including football, tennis and general aerobic activity.
Shaun adds: "This is the only area the school has for sport as there are no grass pitches on the site, so it was important the pitch could be used as their main PE area as well as catering for the needs of the hockey club.
Because the school also has football clubs and five-a-side leagues using the pitches the surface choice had to be tailored to maximise the durability for small-sided football, which will provide further income to the school."
Notts Sport supplies all types and ranges of synthetic turf, meaning hockey pitches are designed individually to suit each and every customer's needs and requirements, while all additional features such as fencing, floodlighting and other elements are also included to provide the complete solution.
At Whitefield School, because the pitch refurbishment was funded through Fast Track Funding, the school was able to secure additional funding elsewhere to upgrade the fencing around the pitches as part of the scheme.
Shaun concludes: "Fast Track Funding has really made this project possible, as the school didn't have the capital available to fund it, and would have struggled to raise the funding itself.
The school and the hockey club are also now able to work together to plan for the replacement of the facility in the next 15 to 20 years.
"The hockey club is really committed to this partnership and also developing its relationship with the school in other ways to bring young players through and develop new talent for the future."