School Games on track as county gets competitive

A key Olympic legacy of getting more children involved in competitive sport has shown its first signs of success in Suffolk, it has emerged.

Officials say a planned Olympic-style inter-school sports competition for the nation’s youngsters has been embraced in the county, with the number of schools signing up to take part - more than 150 already - higher than the national average.

It comes against a backdrop of the NHS trying to improve the health of youngsters - figures last month showed 22% of Suffolk’s five-year-olds were overweight or obese.

With almost half the county’s schools already on board, there are hopes even more will now join in the School Games.

It comes as the Government strives to promote competitive sport by creating a league structure for primary and secondary schools, with an inaugural national final to be held in the lead up to the Olympics and Paralympics next summer.

At the last count, 161 schools across Suffolk had enlisted to compete against each other in local leagues, with winning athletes and teams qualifying for county finals, from which the most talented youngsters will be selected for the national finals.

John Clough, director of Suffolk Sport, said the reaction from schools had been positive and take-up is above the national average, adding: “There seems to be good interest.

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“As we roll it out there will obviously be greater communication with other schools yet to sign up.

“It will be down to the individual schools to decide whether to take part but it would be great for every school to hold some sort of sports day or festival.”

Secretary of State for Culture, Jeremy Hunt announced this week that 7,439 schools in England had signed up for the School Games, which will have opening and closing ceremonies and Olympic-style tournaments with gold, silver and bronze medals.

At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Mr Hunt said he wanted to see a legacy from next year of “more competitive sport for more children in more schools.”

The news of widespread local interest in the School Games will please the county’s Olympic bosses who had been hoping the excitement of London 2012 would inspire more youngsters to take part in sport and drive down rates of childhood obesity rates, after figures last month showed 22% of five-year-olds and 30% of 10-year-olds in Suffolk were overweight or obese.

Schools will also be encouraged to host in-house Olympic-style sports days and there will be a Paralympic element at every level of the competition for young people with disabilities.

Up to �20 million of lottery funding per year will be allocated to the Government’s school sport legacy plan over the next two years.

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