THE spirit and determination of Woodmill High School to play on during a challenging academic year has ended with them netting a top national accolade.

After a 12-month period that saw the school devastated by fire last August, before coronavirus then hit, they have been recognised by the Scottish Schools' FA (SSFA) as its School of the Year.

The award, which was accepted by players Sean McNamara, the senior team captain; Scotland under-19 star Robyn McCafferty, Paige Moore and Jack Reid, who also received his Scottish Schools' under-18s cap having been called up to play in the Centenary Shield tournament earlier this year, was bestowed upon Woodmill for both their qualities on the field and their desire to make sure they fulfilled their fixtures.

Before schools closed in March because of the pandemic, Woodmill pupils were displaced across a variety of sites as part of a phased return to the school building.

Despite the upheaval, more than 130 pupils in boys' and girls' football represented the school in 53 fixtures or festivals throughout the year, with the senior squad in particular going the extra mile for success.

They reached the semi-finals of the SSFA Shield – which had been due to be played in March – that started at home to Viewforth High School before taking them on the road to Monifieth High School, Wick High School and Stornoway's Nicolson Institute in successive rounds.

Home wins over Loudoun Academy, and St Ninian's high School of Kirkintilloch in the quarter-final, took them into the last four, where they had been due to play Giffnock's St Ninian's High School.

Steven Thomson, principal teacher of PE, revealed that the SSFA are hopeful of completing the competition but paid tribute to the commitment of staff and pupils in achieving the award.

"Our school stuck out last year with regards to the difficult circumstances, and the fact we restarted our extra-curricular sport only eight days after the fire took place, despite the fact we were split over eight different sites," he said.

"I think that maybe struck a chord with the guys at the Scottish Schools in terms of the commitment that the staff initially showed, and the kids did, all the way throughout the year.

"At times we were leaving Queen Anne, because you had been teaching up there, and then going down to collect a mini bus at Inverkeithing, going back up to Queen Anne to collect kids to take them to Perth, just to fulfil a fixture. It was quite difficult in that respect.

"The logistics themselves were very difficult and if you look at the seniors in particular, they had a run where they were away to Monifieth, away to Wick, and then away to Nicolson Institute three rounds in a row. A school would've been forgiven for maybe saying look, we need to cut our losses here, but the guys wanted to fulfil their fixtures, as did we, and the proof's in the pudding as the guys got all the way to the semi-final.

"Fingers crossed, we can finish it off and whether the boys win the semi-final and get to the final, or get beat in the semi-final, it's still an unbelievable run considering they've had so many difficult fixtures in the competition.

"They've looked at across the board – the 13s, 14s, 15s, 16s – the fact we've still had girls' football going as well, as well as the seniors' progress.

"The president, when he phoned me, said that it was a no-brainer – he said we stuck out a country mile in comparison to other schools in Scotland. The commitment I think was the biggest thing, to make sure we fulfilled all the fixtures, not only at Scottish level because we still had all the Fife commitments.

"Like I say, we never missed a fixture, and I think a lot of people when they hear that are quite astounded by it."

Brogan Walls, who has subsequently left the school, joined Jack in the final trial for the Scottish team, while other achievements included the school having six senior boys being part of a Fife team that are in the final of a national, regional competition; four under-15 players taking part in the Fife regional squad; and a team of S1 and S2 girls, who Robyn helped coach, that won the Fife section of a Scottish Schools' under-15s 'secondary sevens' event.

Steven continued: "I'm very proud of the guys for last year, the staff and the pupils. The staff give up hour upon hour of their own time above and beyond contract that they don't need to do.

"I've got a brilliant team and if it wasn't for them, the motivation of the kids might wane at times but they really drive it forward.

"The staff, collectively with the pupils, have been absolutely outstanding."

Andy English, president of the SSFA, commented: "It was decided by members of the SSFA to award the School of The Year Trophy to Woodmill High School as recognition of the commitment and dedication of both staff and pupils during the extremely challenging time after the fire which damaged the school building.

"Staff continued to offer many opportunities and experiences, through football, for all age groups. The staff and pupils made many commutes from various venues around Dunfermline to attend training and games. The school played games in all the Scottish and Fife competitions, with the senior team successfully reaching the semi-finals of the Scottish Senior Shield.

"The team played a number of games to reach that stage, including a trip by plane to Stornaway to face Nicholson Institute. It is hoped to be able to complete last season's competitions when it is safe to do so and the Woodmill boys will face St Ninian’s HS (Giffnock) in the semi-final as they strive to reach the final of the oldest schools football competition in the world. Woodmill High School are extremely fitting recipients of the Scottish Schools FA School of the Year Trophy."