Swindon Town Acad-emy manager Jeremy Newton visited pupils at Springfields Academy to help celebrate the opening of the school’s new artificial playing surface.

The 50-metre pitch was finished three weeks ago and is already nearly fully booked.

It will be used by pupils at the special school and local community groups, including FC Calne and Derry Hill FC, as well Southampton FC, which now has a satellite site there.

Mr Newton has been coaching 70 local children, aged five to 12, at the school, during a gifted and talented class, every Tuesday evening for 18 months.

But, during the winter, the group found there was a need for an artificial playing surface, as they ended up playing on a muddy pitch or had to book a local sports hall.

Headteacher Trystan Williams said he was delighted with the facility at the academy.

He said: “It’s a quality venue with top class facilities which means we can help children and the school and local children even more.”

Mr Newton got to know teachers and pupils at the academy when he travelled to Tanzania with them for a ten-day expedition and mentored 13-year-old schoolboy Ethan Moore.

During this time pupils and staff were filmed for a BBC programme the Hottest Classroom on Earth, which will be showing next month on BBC3 and then on BBC World.

Mr Newton said: “While we were walking in Tanzania he told me his whole life story from start to finish. Ethan was the one that I connected with and I thought he deserved the opportunity to extend his life opportunities and social skills. I wanted to help him in any way that I could.”

After the trip to Tanzania, Mr Newton also gave Ethan the opportunity to train at the Swindon Town Academy with him.

Ethan said: “Before the trip things were a lot more stressful, I couldn’t manage things as well as I can now.

“But when I went out there I thought I have got more than what people have got out here and I thought there’s no point in messing around, let’s just get on with it.

“I’ve spoken to my family and said to them I’m on TV at Christmas and they are really pleased, my dad is really proud.”

Mr Williams said: “It just shows that if people are given the right sort of opportunity, they can grow.

“We have young people here that can hold themselves in any sphere of society.”

Plans for the Coldest Classroom on Earth, which will involve a 12-day expedition to Everest Base Camp, are already under way.

In February, Springfield students will join youngsters from across England and Wales at a camp in Snowdonia and eight pupils and eight teachers will be selected for the trip.