A SOUTH Tyneside school is helping to boot out racism – after scoring a visit from a Newcastle United hero.
Former England defender Steve Howey pitched in at an anti-racism event at Hebburn Comprehensive School.
The St James’s Park favourite, who also turned out for Manchester City and Leicester City during his career, was joined by fellow former Newcastle United player Olivier Bernard, football star Richard Offiong and ex-Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace stopper Dean Gordon at the two-day Show Racism the Red Card workshop.
Year 8 and Year 9 pupils at the Campbell Park Road secondary took a break from sums and science to hear how to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes regarding race and learn about the vital work being carried out by the Show Racism the Red Card organisation.
As well as the important education, there was still time for the former pros to put on their shooting boots for some fun football fitness sessions.
Pupils also lined up to get autographs from their visitors after enjoying a Premier League quality experience.
Laura Pidcock, an educator from Show Racism the Red Card, said: “The young pupils have been amazing. They have been willing to question what they’ve heard, have been open to learn and very enthusiastic.
“The sessions have been about exposing stereotypes and looking at terminology that is appropriate and inappropriate, as well as having a football fitness session.”
Deputy headteacher Ron Brady added: “The pupils have been very receptive to the message.
“The atmosphere has been wonderful and the children have all really bought into the anti-racism message.
“They have all got a lot out of it. It is a crucial issue.”
Mr Brady said the influence of footballers is key to breaking down racial barriers and broadening young minds.
Show Racism the Red Card also visited Hebburn Comprehensive last year and has built up a strong relationship with staff and pupils alike as it bids to spread their inclusive message.
Steve Howey was delighted by the response of pupils at the school.
He said: “It has gone really well. I was quite surprised at how responsive all the pupils have been to what we have been doing. It has been brilliant.”
The former Premier League player says high-profile campaigns in schools can play a key role in defeating racism.
He added: “We’re getting there. There’s still a lot of work to do but with Show Racism the Red Card we can point people in the right direction.”
Show Racism the Red Card was set up in 1996 in North Tyneside, using footballers as role models to combat racism.
For more information, visit www.srtrc.org