The ACE programme is for players aged 16-18 and sees them mixing academic and sporting excellence, with graduates including England hooker Jamie Blamire, Newcastle Falcons captain Callum Chick and first-team hooker George McGuigan, to name just three.
Explaining his own international call-up, Patton said: “I got invited down to the England Under-17s camp in Bristol on March 11-13, which was brilliant, and there were around 50 kids there in total.
“There were some academy coaches there – I was the only school coach, although I do also have an attachment with the Falcons’ academy – and the players were split into North and South teams.
“I helped coach the North, we planned the whole weekend in terms of the training and meetings, and then on the Sunday the two teams had a game against each other. It was good fun, and I got a lot out of it.
“Newcastle Falcons had four players there, which was great to see, with Isaac Keller, Jacob Oliver, Tom Burton and Finn Baker all present, and it was great to be asked.”
Patton’s involvement is further recognition for a flourishing ACE programme which continues to produce quality players through the state education pipeline.
“The ACE season runs from September to December, so that’s finished now for this year,” explained Patton.
“We came fifth in the country, which was good going, although with the group of players we had I think the lads were disappointed they didn’t do a bit better.
“Five of our lads have been involved with England Under-18s this season, which has been brilliant, and we’re on with recruiting for next season now. I’m on at the moment looking at Under-16s, and there has been a lot of Developing Player Pathway (DPP) activity recently at that age group, which I am having a look at.
“The Falcons Under-16s have a triangular academy tournament against Sale Sharks and Yorkshire, which I’m helping to coach at, and then we’ll try and make some decisions from there. The ACE scheme is by invitation only, so we’ll contact the lads that we’re interested in bringing in, and it’s an exciting time for us.”
Reflecting on the growing reputation of the programme at Gosforth Academy, he said: “The ACE is pretty well established now, and it’s really pleasing to see guys flourishing who have come through the programme.
“We obviously have Jamie Blamire playing for England, Callum Chick captaining the Falcons last weekend on his 100th game for the club having already played for England, George McGuigan consistently playing really well for the Falcons and then younger guys like Tom Marshall coming through and starting big Premiership games for the club.
“That’s probably the best marketing tool you can have, and then to have so many of our lads currently involved with the England Under-18s squad is another really pleasing endorsement of what we are doing.”