A budding footballer is hoping to score goals as well as top grades in his GCSEs after taking some words of advice from Barnet’s Borough Commander.

Securing a two year contract with West Bromwich Albion Football Club was a dream come true for 16-year-old Shaun Donnellan – but his teachers at St James’ Catholic High School in Great Strand, Colindale, wanted to make sure he stayed focused on getting good grades before joining the club this summer.

As a result St James’ launched a mentoring programme to give encouragement and advice to 20 Year 11 students who were at risk of underachieving in their exams - and will be using the approach next year, too.

Headteacher Niamh Arnull said: “We decided to get people from outside the school, including officers and staff from Barnet Police, to help mentor the children and reinforce the key message that working hard at school is important.”

Shaun was partnered with Barnet’s Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Adrian Usher, who soon helped him get back on track with his school work while encouraging him to follow his dream.

Shaun, whose father Leo Donnellan used to play for Chelsea and Fulham, said: “I was really excited when I found out about my contract but everyone at the school was keen to keep me focused on my grades.

“Having weekly sessions with Adrian definitely made me concentrate more and realise I wanted to do well in my GCSEs.”

Having sat his final exam, Shaun is “nervous but excited” about moving to West Bromwich ready to start his training this week.

Chief Superintendent Adrian Usher said: “In football you’re always one game away from the end of your career so it’s important Shaun had a plan B.

“It was great to get to know someone as charismatic and engaging as Shaun – I got on with him right from the start and we quickly became like friends. We’d catch up on what he had been working on that week, what he did well and what he could improve on.

“You also learn a great deal about your own strengths and weaknesses when you’re trying to focus someone else. It was a really fun and interesting process – I’ll definitely be encouraging my staff to take part next year.”