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Sofa spuds jump at sporting chance

Helen Ward on the extraordinary response to the TES's call to Get Active

Thousands of teachers have surfed the web to get fit this summer, with help from the TES's Get Active campaign.

They all logged on to the website to share inventive ideas and inspiring stories for the campaign - launched in April to raise awareness of healthy eating and ways of getting fit.

The importance of the message was endorsed by the Duke of Edinburgh and sporting celebrities. But it was the pupils and staff of schools across England and Wales who were the real winners.

From the five-year-olds at Okeford Fitzpaine primary, Dorset, who start the day with step aerobics, through the assault course with an Egyptian theme at Rabbsfarm primaryin Hillingdon, to table tennis champions at Ashington community high school, Northumberland, there has been no shortage of enthusiasm.

And it is not only children, focus of concerns about the "couch potato generation", who have been getting active.

Phil Booth, 54, a part-time teacher of modern languages at Melland high school, Manchester, loves all outdoor activities: "Everything from mountaineering to snowboarding."

Physics teacher Neil Willatt, 50, of Leeds grammar school heads for the Alps to climb mountains during the holidays.

And for the less macho, Jo Lally, who teaches German at Havant College, Hampshire, wrote about training for a sponsored cycle ride: "Huffing, puffing and wobbling around Southampton and the New Forest."

Bob Doe, Editor of The TES, said: "We are delighted with the enthusiastic response we have had to this summer's Get Active campaign.

"We have aimed to encourage teachers and celebrate success, not to nag or add to the general panic about obesity. Teachers are not the fat police and nor is The TES. But sensible eating and an active healthy lifestyle is just as much learning for life as mastering maths or expression in English. What experience in school will add most to children's happiness and vitality 10 or 20 years on - hitting the fat or sitting the Sat?"

Sir Clive Woodward, coach of the world-cup winning English rugby team, said it was never too early to start getting active and England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson pointed out the Euro 2004 championships should inspire children and parents, to kick a football across the park rather than the computer screen.

The TES's dedicated Get Active website featured real-life stories, games donated by the British Heart Foundation and Sport Relief and a health calculator so visitors could assess their fitness.

The website attracted more than 7,000 visitors and registrations from more than 700 schools.

A series of 10 cards designed to get primary-aged children thinking about scenarios such as what to eat for breakfast or how to get to school was also published in TESTeacher magazine.

The campaign kicked off with a TES survey of 700 parents, which found nearly half of the children in England and Wales had diets dominated by snacks such as crisps, fizzy drinks and sweets.

In stark contrast, school chef of the year Sharon Armstrong, explained how she had fed her children, Katie, 20, James, 15, and Jane, 13, her tomato and chilli pasta dish every night for a week until she got it just right.

Her weekly recipes, published on the website, included spicy lamb and chick pea casserole and Dracula's delight with jetter biscuit - a concoction of summer fruit, raspberry jelly and white chocolate mousse.

And,she let all those parents whose children prefer crisps into her secret of good eating: cheat.

"We sneak grated vegetables into the shepherd's pie and curries," she said:

"They can't say they don't like it because they're eating it without knowing."

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