A £500,000 sports pitch aims to encourage 100 more girls and women to play football.

The artificial grass pitch was officially unveiled at Philip Morant School and College in Colchester.

It was made possible thanks to a £498,959 grant from the Football Foundation charity and has been more than a year in the making.

The new pitch not only provides the secondary school’s PE department with a first-class facility, but the community will be able to use the all-weather training site for youth development and community projects.

Philip Morant School has formed a partnership with Disability4Sport UK to provide ‘soccability’ and hearing-impaired sessions for the community on the new pitch.

The site will also be used by Essex County FA to deliver coach and referee education courses.

Partner club, Stanway Rovers FC, will focus on establishing three new girls’ teams within the first year of the pitch being in operation, growing to five teams by year five.

This will contribute to 98 girls and women starting to play competitive football in Essex, which is one of the county FA’s key focuses.

Scott Holder, headteacher at Philip Morant, said: “The 3G AGP pitch has improved sport at Philip Morant.

“Students love the quality of the FIFA approved surface, which has led to an increase in the number of young people joining clubs, particularly football.

“We have also been able to increase the range of sports available throughout the year as the area has floodlights, which means clubs and activities can continue in the winter months.”

Paul Thorogood, chief executive of the Football Foundation, said: “This is one example we want to make people in Essex aware of, that they have the kind of quality pitches and changing rooms that are taken for granted in other counties.

“We will continue to support projects nationwide, but we cannot do this on our own, so we are encouraging organisations in the area to join our movement to deliver quality football facilities for people in Essex once and for all.

“Taking part in community sport at any level offers many benefits and rewards, not least the opportunity for people to enjoy themselves and socialise with different members of the community.”

The Football Foundation is funded by the Premier League, the Football Association and from Government through Sport England.

n A girls’ football team has launched at Wivenhoe Town Football Club.

Open to girls in years five and six at primary school, the launch of the Dragonesses aims to plug the gap in girls’ football provision in the town.

Year four girls are also welcome to join if they have some football experience and are enthusiastic.

Coach Steve Addington, who set up the team, said: “The motivation for starting up a girls’ team under the Wivenhoe Town umbrella came from a desire to grow the women’s game so that my daughter and other girls like her are able to experience the same diverse mix of football competition that the boys enjoy.

“There are some amazing girls’ teams in Essex, but they are thinly spread, meaning that girls teams sometimes have to travel long distances for a game.”

Contact Mr Addington on 07834 875094 for more information.