Prime Minister David Cameron has urged schools across the country to follow the lead of those in Thurrock, Essex, and sign up to the School Games.
All bar three of the eligible schools in Thurrock have signed up to take part in the new competition that will culminate with finals being held in May at the Olympic Park.
Speaking at the Newspaper Society event yesterday, the Prime Minister said: "We have got 8,000 schools signed up, with Thurrock leading the way, and I would urge others to join them. There is still time for schools to sign up."
The School Games are fully inclusive and backed by Paralympics GB, encouraging participation in competitive sport across the spectrum of abilities and experience.
Mr Cameron added that this will be an ideal opportunity for those outside London to be part of the sporting legacy from hosting the Games next summer.
"I want the Olympic spirit to reach every part of the country, not just London," he said. "In May next year, British schoolchildren will run on the Olympic track before Usain Bolt; they are going to be swimming in the Aquatic Centre before Rebecca Adlington; they are going to be racing in the Velodrome before Chris Hoy."
The new School Games format, announced by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt last February, has been planned to motivate and inspire millions of young people across the country to take part in more competitive sport. Designed across four levels, for both primary and secondary school pupils, the School Games offer a fantastic opportunity for all young people to compete in intra-school, inter-school and regional competitions.
Commenting on the latest figures for the number of schools that have signed up in each Local Authority (see the full breakdown), Mr Hunt said; "I would like to join the Prime Minister in congratulating those schools who have already signed up and urge even more to get on board. The School Games competition is a big part of the sporting legacy from London 2012 and I can't think of a better way to start the first finals than by staging them at the Park before the world's best athletes arrive."
The School Games is supported by a range of partners including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Sport England, Department of Health, Paralympics GB and the Youth Sport Trust. Over £100 million of Lottery and Government funding is being injected into the School Games over the next three years.