STAFF from two North East schools have raised thousands of pounds for a cancer charity by staging a charity football match in honour of a much-loved colleague.

Teaching assistant Rachel Bowman died at the start of this year after being diagnosed with cancer, and the match was played between teams from the two schools where she had worked.

Parkside Academy, at Willington, took on Whitworth Park Academy, at Spennymoor, for the inaugural Bowman Cup, raising more than £2,500 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

The match was the idea of Parkside Academy PE teacher, Jamie Wilson, a friend and colleague of Rachel for more than 20 years, with the help of Zak Fletcher, who works in pastoral care at Whitworth Park Academy.

Jamie said: “Rachel was so well-loved and highly respected by staff and students alike. She was a fantastic role model and source of support, and I just wanted to do something positive and fun in her memory.”

Jamie first met Rachel, pictured below, when he was studying at Spennymoor School – now Whitworth Park Academy – and she was working as a teaching assistant. After Jamie graduated, he returned to the school as a cover supervisor, and they became colleagues.

(Image: Advance Learning Partnership)

Jamie’s mum, Lorraine, is also a teaching assistant at Whitworth Park Academy, and his sister, Victoria, also worked there earlier in her teaching career, so Rachel became a close family friend.

When Jamie got a job as a PE teacher at Parkside Academy, mum-of-two Rachel was appointed as a teaching assistant at the school, and they started on the same day.

The match, involving male and female staff, was played on one of Whitworth Park Academy’s new 3G pitches, and was won by Parkside Academy, with Jamie scoring what he described as “a spectacular goal in the top corner from outside the box”.

(Image: Advance Learning Partnership)

“The match was played in a great spirit, ending in a fun penalty shoot-out, and my mum even made a cameo appearance,” said Jamie, adding: “It’s the best goal I’ve ever scored!”

Guy Gray, Head of PE at Parkside Academy, was referee, the football strips were borrowed from the Solan Cancer Trust, and a range of fundraising activities were staged during the match, with the total raised exceeding all expectations.

The schools are part of the Advance Learning Partnership, and the trust’s chief executive, Kelvin Simpson, presented the trophy to Rachel’s husband, Trevor Elsdon, who in turn handed it to Jamie as the winning captain (pictured below)

(Image: Advance Learning Partnership)

“It was such a great success that we hope to stage it again next year but make it bigger and better,” said Jamie.