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Sporting chance at team success

Shuttlecocks fly furiously across nets in the sports hall, a crescendo of splashes comes from the swimming pool and in the gym 60 feet step in time.

It is a normal day at John Leggott sixth-form college in Scunthorpe, praised by the Further Education Funding Council for creating a thriving programme of optional sport and encouraging team activities.

Even here, however, an overcrowded timetable and inadequate funding are putting staff and facilities under pressure. Principal Dave Linnell is himself a sports fanatic. He arrived seven years ago having played rugby for Cornwall and Hampshire, and was determined to boost the sports department and increase the optional activities.

Sports from water-volleyball and aerobics to netball, football and rugby are offered and the college enters teams for many competitions. Students taking three A-levels have 19 compulsory periods a week.

For a further five periods they are required to take on some extra activities, which is where sport comes in. There are 18 sports-related activities available in 46 supervised timetable sessions each week and the college estimates that 500 students get involved.

"The principal really pushes sport," says Steve Price, who has just finished two years at John Leggott and is excited by the way subject is exploited at the college. "A recreational swimming class does not just involve a few lengths, it is a lot of fun and games in the pool.

"You can also train for the community sports leadership award which is a confidence booster and allows you to get a summer job working on a play scheme," he says.

Not all activities are taught by specialist sports teachers. Heather England, a human biology teacher takes step aerobics, which is popular with women students, while Dana Walden, the economics teacher is trained to teach golf.

"If you are interested in any sport which is not on offer, all you have to do is ask a teacher and they'll arrange it for you," says Neil Taylor who has just finished his first year of A-level sport.

The college is constantly looking to offer fresh courses, but Claire Windle, head of sport, says that funding is a problem. Last year it had to ditch its self-defence course because of a lack of money. Next year, however, it is hoping to launch a self-defence course for women.

John Leggott has a swimming pool, gym and the use a community sports hall, a stadium with an astroturf pitch and an athletics track.

The college spends about Pounds 2,000 a term to hire the sports hall and more than Pounds 1,000 a year on the stadium.

Both teachers and students are keen on competitions. Every Wednesday in the winter, three football teams, two netball teams, three hockey teams and one rugby team take on rival colleges. On Tuesday nights and Saturday afternoons, football and netball teams compete in the local community's adult league. "It's very important that we are made to play against adults early because later you realise that's what it's about," says 20-year-old Mike Dugdale who spent three years at John Leggott and is now doing a degree in leisure studies at Leeds Metropolitan University.

To raise cash to fund its sports programme, the college has upgraded the swimming pool which it now rents out to the local community. There are fears, however, that over the next few years as funding is squeezed the pool could become a luxury the college cannot afford.

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