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The strongest link

David Bocking describes a scheme that builds contacts between school and clubs sports

It's going to be hard enough to get three quarters of the nation's schoolchildren to leave their TVs behind and run about their nearest sports fields for two hours a week, you might think. But what if your pupils haven't got a sports field? Or a school hall? What if your school has only three teachers?

Cornwall is one of the pilot LEAs for the government's PE, School Sport and Club Links (PESSCL) strategy, which aims to have 75 per cent of the country's five to 16-year-olds taking part in at least two hours a week of sport or PE by 2006. But in Cornwall, half the county's primaries are small village schools, typically with no hall, two or three Victorian classrooms, a small schoolyard, and two or three teachers.

The hub of the county's PESSCL scheme is its four sports colleges. School sports co-ordinators meet at the colleges regularly, then take their programmes to teachers at their own clusters of small primary schools.

Cornwall's sports colleges are helped by links with the governing bodies of different sports and with sports clubs. Club coaches provide a "face" for their sport at a school and can set up school teams linked with their club.

The LEA has also persuaded bus operators to run later services at several schools so pupils can get home after five o'clock.

Director of sport at Penryn College Paul Walker says: "The programme is an absolute triumph. The school sports co-ordinator scheme has given us a really strong framework to work with. The sports colleges are perfectly placed to get everybody's confidence, and to feed development in a natural process. It's just superb."

One of the successes of the scheme is the leadership programme, says Frank Perry, PE adviser to Cornwall LEA. More than 600 secondary students work with primary schools as part of their PE work at Year 10 and above. "Part of the citizenship training in KS4 involves taking a leadership course, which includes helping in primary schools. The students might go back to their own village after school to work with children in their local primary."

The secondary students also organise festivals of sport for primary children, such as tournaments of football, rugby or basketball. Coaches from clubs might come along, while older pupils referee or look after a team of young players.

One of Penryn College's feeder primaries is Mylor Bridge School, which has 130 pupils, five full-time teachers and a sport programme that includes gymnastics and rugby. Mylor Bridge pupils have taken part in rugby and basketball tournaments organised by students from Penryn College and the school has hosted visits from former football and rugby internationals and the Plymouth Raiders, a professional basketball team.

Mylor Bridge headteacher Chris Lea says: "We'd never have been able to do all this without the students from Penryn. It's giving more opportunities for our children and I'd say it's making a difference to their fitness. All 21 Year 6 pupils are now involved with sport, whereas if you go back 15 years, you'd have had half a dozen who'd say 'I don't want to do that'. The children are motivated now, and every child has a chance to find something where they'll say 'I want to do that'. " Paul Walker says: "I'd say to teachers that when they get their PESSCL pack through the post, they should say 'Yes'. They should see it as really positive. And the leadership stuff is community regeneration writ large."

Penryn's 6,000 residents used to be plagued by teenage crime, so much so that a police officer had to be brought in just to work in the town centre, says Paul Walker. But since 100 Penryn pupils have started doing sports work with their local primaries, town centre crime has stopped. Paul Walker says: "One Year 10 boy was on the verge of exclusion. He'd spend all his time winding you up, and he told me he'd never get five A-Cs. But he's a rugby player, and since he's been doing his leadership work with younger kids, it's changed him. It's given him responsibility. Now he's on for eight A-Cs and he wants to be a journalist." rningpe

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