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Pupils taught to skip class

BOXING is clearly on the ropes. First there is Billy Elliot, the acclaimed new movie whose young hero prefers ballet to bouts. And now comes news of a Durham head who is inviting boxers into his primary school.

But rather than showing the children how to fight, the two boxers have been asked to teach them how to skip.

Robert Hanney, head of Howletch primary in Peterlee, has made the traditional playground game compulsory in every PE lesson. Boys and girls will skip for at least five minutes as part of their sport curriculum, and skipping competitions will be held.

The idea followed a meeting with boxing academy director Frank Collinson at East Durham and Houghall Community College, where skipping is a vital part of the boxers' fitness training.

"Children can be such couch potatoes, sitting in front of a television, a video or computer screen," said Mr Hanney.

"I don't see skipping very often in the playground these days and it really is very good exercise."

Twins Steffan an Rhydian Hughes, 17, from the academy, will give high-speed skipping demonstrations to capture pupils' imagination and encourage them to skip," said Mr Hanney.

"The girls in school are keen but some of the boys think it's silly. But I think they will be mesmerised when they see to what levels you can take skipping."

Mr Collinson said: "The health benefits of skipping are great. It's not only good for your heart, for the blood pressure and for keeping your weight down but it also greatly improves your physical co-ordination.

"The twins skip to music, mostly jazz, and they skip so fast that for anyone watching, the rope is just a blur. We'll show the children how to put a routine together, talk to them about the health benefits that follow, and also give advice on nutrition.

"It's our long-term hope that the skipping idea spreads to all schools across the country. We hope that we can hold nationwide skipping competitions as they do in countries such as Australia and Canada."

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