Charity celebrates London 2012 legacy as record numbers compete in school sport

Six years to the day since the opening of London 2012, one of the biggest legacy projects to come out of the UK’s opportunity to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games is celebrating its most successful year to date.

More than 10 million young people have now participated in the School Games since launching, a programme designed to keep competitive sport at the heart of schools and provide more young people with the opportunity to compete and achieve their personal best.

Delivered by children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust, with National Lottery funding from Sport England and supported by National Governing Bodies of Sport and County Sports Partnerships, latest statistics collated by the charity through the programme show that as well as engaging over 3.9 million young people this year alone, more girls than ever are being engaged in competitive school sport.

In intra-school sport 803,834 boys participated in the last year compared to 758,622 girls. The gap narrows even more in inter-school sport with 1,148,847 boys and 1,115,561 girls participating and at School Games County Festivals, girls’ participation surpasses boys with 43,902 girls and 39,925 boys taking part.

Ali Oliver, Chief Executive at the Youth Sport Trust, said: “It has been a record breaking year for participation in the School Games, which allows millions of young people to participate in inclusive, engaging and educational competitive school sport.

“Sport can contribute significantly to young people’s personal development and equip them with skills for life, we strive to embed six key values through the School Games which are: determination, honesty, passion, respect, self-believe and teamwork.

“It is hugely encouraging to see the surge in girls taking part in competitive school sport over the last year which is being achieved through the inclusion of a wider range of sports and new and inclusive formats, as well as wider work we and others are doing to ensure sport appeals to more women and girls such as our award winning Girls Active programme and the This Girl Can campaign.”

The programme is transforming the traditional competitive school sport calendar with a greater diversity of sports and more competitions for teams beyond the customary ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams.

As well as a rise in girls’ participating, sports like New Age Kurling are seeing a boost in schools with a 75% increase in the number of young people taking part since 2016/17 academic year. Similarly, Orienteering has seen a 20% increase since 2016/17 academic year.

Ardleigh Green Junior School in Hornchurch said by being involved in the School Games and teaching pupils about a variety of sports and introducing them to elements of competition at a young age, it is helping children to develop resilience and be ‘secondary-ready’ with a love for sport.

Teacher, Simon Harris, said: “We aim to support the ongoing participation of our pupils, in a range of sports, by developing their enthusiasm and motivation whilst at school. We strive for as many of our children to engage with a wide range of sports as possible. Through experiencing competitive situations and how to prepare for them, we feel this promotes a positive attitude to competition and sport, which the children adopt and nurture as they progress through the school and into secondary level education.”

The pinnacle of the year for the School Games programme comes next month when the UK’s most talented school-age athletes will compete in the School Games National Finals. This is a multi-sport event which sees 1,400 young athletes compete in 11 sports, five of which include disability disciplines across a four-day event.

The School Games National Finals take place from 30 August to 2 September, held at Loughborough University and aim to inspire and grow the next generation of athletes. The event will be supported by 400 volunteers and be seen live by spectators from local schools and the community.

Mike Diaper, Sport England Executive Director of Children and Young People, said:

“Sport England is delighted to be able to fund this year’s School Games with money raised by National Lottery players. The School Games gives young people the chance to experience sport in a competitive environment, and the final sets talented young athletes on the road to success by giving them a small taster of what it's like to compete at an Olympic and Paralympic Games. Everyone should have the chance to take part in competitive sport, and we are proud that over half of the 41 sports in the School Games include disability disciplines.”

Previous competitors in the School Games National Finals include Paralympic champions Hannah Cockroft, Ellie Simmonds and Jonnie Peacock, Olympic champion Adam Peaty, and heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

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