Forces' field puts sports on track

The Army came to the rescue of a school in Berkshire which lacks facilities. Helen Ward reports.

The Army has come to the rescue of a primary school with no sports field and a small playground, helping it to win a national award for sport. Soldiers in the Royal Engineers have allowed youngsters from Curridge primary in Thatcham, Berkshire, to use their facilities to sharpen their sporting abilities.

Sappers even helped mark out the track when the 119-pupil school held its annual sports day at the military base. Now the school has received an Active Mark Gold award for its good practice from funding body Sport England.

Headteacher David Stephenson believes in the adage that physical activity improves cognitive ability.

He said: "We try to give each child two-and-a-half hours of physical activity a week. In games lessons we do a warm-up then practise various skills, such as chasing, and we may end with a small match.

"Sport is not about producing champions but developing people's abilities. It is for everybody. I think it underpins our curriculum and gives it balance."

The school's national test results show that of the 10 pupils who took the Year 6 tests this year, seven achieved level 5 in English and seven reached level 5 in maths.

He added: "We do a lot of extra-curricular sport off the premises. The Royal Engineers' 42 survey group at Hermitage lets us use its facilities for netball practice. We held our sports day there and it was absolutely superb."

Curridge school has teams in football, tag rugby, cricket and netball, but it is not just a lack of room that the children have to overcome - with just five girls in Year 5 and Year 6, compared to 27 boys, two boys have joined the netball team to make up the numbers.

Pupils also take part in swimming, athletics and cross-country running, and next year Mr Stephenson is hoping to introduce horse-riding .

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We are happy to help out - we like to maintain strong links with our local communities. The military is very keen on sport and appreciates it when youngsters are enthusiastic too."

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