STAFF at Watford Football Club welcomed the Minister of State for School Standards, Stephen Timms to the club's Learning Centre.

The centre, which provides extra curricular study support for local pupils between the ages of 10 and 14, was first established in Autumn 2000.

It is the result of a partnership between Watford Football Club, Hertfordshire County Council and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), as part of the Government's Playing for Success project.

The project, which is currently in operation at 47 football clubs throughout the country, is a DfES initiative that builds on the popularity of football, using it as a stimulus to generate greater levels of motivation and confidence in learning.

Mr Timms was given a guided tour of the grounds and The Learning Centre, which has to date been used by more than 200 pupils from ten local schools.

The Learning Centre offers a number of different courses geared towards developing skills in information computer technology, literacy and numeracy recognised at Key Stages 2 and 3.

In front of an audience of more than 100 people representing participating partnerships, community groups and organisations involved with the centre, Mr Timms then unveiled a commemorative plaque to mark the official opening of the centre.

Following a formal welcome from the director of Children, Schools and Families Mr Ray Shostak, Mr Timms congratulated pupils and staff at the centre, and members of the partnership organisations that have assisted in its growth and success over the past year.

He said: "I am very pleased to be here to officially open the centre.

"Watford has an excellent record of involvement in the local community.

"All the children I have spoken to today at the centre were very voluble about the skills they have acquired and I am sure the children who come here to learn will be inspired by studying in such a motivating environment."

Chief executive for Watford FC, Mr Tim Shaw said: "We've seen over the past 12 months the significant role that our football club can play in serving the community in partnership with the Playing for Success project.

"The provision of the Watford Learning Centre is a very important part of this and I'm delighted that together with our partners we've been so successful in providing a facility that is helping so many children."