SPORTING stars are being given every chance of success in south Essex, with one Thundersley school helping the next generation of leading lights.

Deanes School’s STARS Scholars – a youth initiative, which stands for Supporting Talented Athletes on the Road to Success – has helped a host of upcoming and current athletes, as it looks to propel local teenagers to the highest level.

With former scholars including James Eade (karate), Paige Cerson (mixed martial arts) and Brinn Bevan (gymnastics) successful graduates of the scheme, the scheme is continuing to churn out the next generation of stars.


Paige Cerson, one of Deanes' former STARS pupils, with her award for sports personality of the year at the Castle Point and Rochford Sports Awards

Dougie Turnbull and Hayden Skinner (both gymnastics), Lauren Bann (archery), Javi Alejo-Manrique (skiing), Alan Gilbertson (boxer), Chanelle Ellis (rhythmic gymnast) and more recently Tyrell Bryant (Southend United Academy footballer) are the current crop of scholars.

The programme incorporates the pupils’ studies with their sport, with Bann recognised at the recent Rochford and Castle Point Sports Awards, winning the Mayor’s Award.

And Louise Douglass, STARS Scholars mentor, has backed the athletes to go on and make waves in the future.

“It’s been so successful,” she said. “To be able to support these young athletes is so important to their development although we are always looking for more funding.

“We had funding for a few years from the Youth Sports Trust but it has stopped in recent years and we have found it hard to provide as much as we could before.”

Started eight years ago, by former Deanes teacher Viv Willis – mother of double Olympic competitor Nicola – the programme provides physiotherapy for the athletes as well as giving them personalised timetables and workshops, so they can complete more than 24 hours training per week.

Local physios have stepped into the breach recently to help, although Steve Bish, partnership development manager at the Deanes School, is looking to secure more funding in the near future.

“This is a unique programme,” continued Louise. “There are a lot of stars who have come through this system and represented their countries and that makes us very proud. We have had 13 star scholars and we hope there will be many more.”