�10m school sports boost
MOVES to introduce more competitive sports in schools were last night welcomed as a way to improve self esteem and drive down obesity among Suffolk youngsters.
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday launched a �10m Olympic and Paralympic-style initiative that will see children from primary and secondary schools going head to head in a bid to reach national finals.
The scheme was last night welcomed as a way to further tackle Suffolk’s obesity timebomb and improve youngsters’ confidence.
Research shows that one in four children in the county will be clinically obese by 2050 if no action is taken – which could end up costing the NHS millions of pounds.
Ian Jackson, senior competition manager for Suffolk, heads a team employed by the county council that is responsible for encouraging inter school competitions.
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“This announcement is potentially excellent news,” he said. “It will hopefully extend the work we are already doing by providing extra resources and encouraging more youngsters to take part in inter school sport.
“Competitive sport is good for children. It builds character but it also reveals character as well. It provides an opportunity for young people who might not be as academically gifted as some - as well as those who are - to compete against others with similar interests.
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“You often read about the negative aspects of what young people get up to but more often than not in a competitive environment it will build confidence and they will perform to very high standards.
“Obviously competitive sport is not for everyone but I’m sure it will go some way to not just improving physical fitness but mental fitness as well.”
The scheme would compliment the work already being carried out by the primary care trust as part of Healthy Ambitions Suffolk, which aims to make the county the healthiest in the UK by 2028.
Adam Baker, Suffolk County Council’s project manager for London 2012, said anything that encouraged more young people to play competitive sport was a good step.
“We know that the Olympic and Paralympic Games will inspire children and young people to want to play sport and we have to make the most of that opportunity,” he said. “That in turn will hopefully have an added impact on the childhood obesity and give younger people the focus to lead healthier lifestyles.”
John Clough, director of Suffolk Sport, said although they worked with schools they were more focused on extra curricular activity but thought the scheme sounded like a positive step.
“Its an interesting announcement,” he said. “Certainly you would hope it would encourage more youngsters to take up sport outside of school, which is something that we would obviously like to see.”
According to yesterday’s announcement up to �10m of lottery funding, distributed by Sport England, will create a new sports league structure for primary and secondary schools, with the first national final to be held in the run up to the London 2012 Games.
Schools in England will compete against each other in leagues with winning athletes and teams qualifying for county and national finals.
Schools will also be urged to host in-house Olympic-style sports days so children of all abilities have the chance to compete.
A Paralympic-style element will be included at every level of the competition.
Mr Hunt said: “We have got to completely get rid of this myth that competitive sport is bad for children. We have to realise that sport is a good thing.
“It does not damage your self-esteem, it helps to strengthen your self-esteem because sport is often about picking yourself up.”