Excitement and interest in the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games is building, and schools are joining in the fun. Lesley Finlay asked a selection of local schools to talk about how they were making the most of the Games...
The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics are almost upon us and schools are seizing the opportunity of the Games to support learning on and off the playing fields, while some of our young heroes are being honoured as part of the Torch Relay, which promises to be a time of true community celebration. Ashford School is delighted that one of their students, 14-year-old student Lana-Emily Foyle, will be carrying the torch on July 17th at St Leonards-on-Sea. A sports scholar, Lana plays hockey, rounders, netball and rugby - in spite of overcoming major heart surgery in 2010. The delighted Year 10 student said: 'When I heard the news I screamed and jumped up and down with excitement. I hope that by carrying the torch I can inspire other children with heart conditions.' Lana was born with a heart murmur but doctors had predicted that it would heal itself. However, when she collapsed seconds after finishing a triathlon competition in September 2009, doctors at St Thomas's Hospital in London closed a hole in her heart that had grown bigger over the years.
Since then, the plucky student has not stopped - Lana took up athletics and pole-vaulting. Again, she is excelling at her chosen sport, as well as finding time to organise several fundraising activities. Tony Wilde is head of sport at the school. He said: 'We are all extremely proud of Lana. She is an exceptional sportswoman and her determination, spirit and talent have brought her a long way. She thoroughly deserves this opportunity and we wish her all the best for her big day.' Angley School also has a torchbearer to be proud of - 18-year-old Jess Gould. The sixth former, who lives in Hawkhurst, was nominated by former Brownie leader Michelle Dunster for all her extra-curricular activities that include working as a Cub and Brownie leader, teaching an autistic boy sign language and doing work experience in a primary school. The Cranbrook school continues to offer major opportunities for young sportsmen and women, as well as focusing on how the values of good sportsmanship can have benefits in all areas of life. This is seen as a major part of the Games' legacy for the school. Assistant Principal Nick Burchell told Wealden Times: 'Angley School has introduced a leadership level course for Year 7 students based on the Olympic and Paralympic values. This includes working with 10 other schools at the Swattenden Centre in Cranbrook on group activities to explore these values through a series of group exercises. 'A second day is spent on the leadership elements where we concentrate on theory and teamwork at St Augustine's Academy in Maidstone. The students meet Olympic athletes to talk about motivation, teamwork and training tips. All our Year 7s go through this programme now - it's embedded in school life - this is about the legacy after the Games have finished. It teaches the students about values and how we want to live our lives.' Angley School is part of the national Get Set Network, along with more than 2,000 Kent primary and secondary schools, joining the vast online 'meeting place' for schools and colleges to share their 2012 Olympic and Paralympic activities. Nick continues: 'As part of the 2012 Get Set Network, we took a group of students to the Olympic Stadium to see what the facilities were like. They were amazed by the scale - it was a really important visit. We are planning a second visit before the Games start, as a reward for our work with primary schools across the country, to see some test events.
We are going to the VeloPark and in the afternoon will watch athletics in the Olympic stadium. 'We are also hosting a World Sports Day where we will be welcoming 150 primary school children to celebrate the athletics and cultures of the Olympic Games. We're targeting Years 3 and 4 and the day will be marshalled, led and organised by Angley's sports leaders. The primary school children will be given designated countries, and come in national dress bringing flags and banners. It should be a great day.' Schools are using the Games to introduce new sports to their students. Angley is looking at adding equestrian events and archery to its sports day, while Dover College has added handball to its curriculum. Year 8 students in the Dover school hit the headlines last month when they were filmed learning to play the sport as part of the BBC's School Report day. Two pupils, Molly and Guy, joined fellow Year 8 students to investigate and report on different minority sports listed on the London 2012 website. They researched the basics of each game, its history and its involvement with the Olympic movement. The pupils were given a chance to have a go at handball and interviewed London 2012 Organising Committee chairman Lord Coe on the subject. A spokesman for Dover College said: 'A legacy would be for us to encourage promoting the game - particularly as it is well known by our European students.' Using the Games as part of all-round learning has helped to enthuse young people about the Games and learn about our Olympians, past and present. Dover College pupil James Tapsell said: 'It is great the Torch Relay and Olympics and Paralympics are coming to the UK. I am really looking forward to it all as I think it will inspire many people to take up sport.' It seems there is a good chance it will encourage and inspire young people to take up sport.
Bethany from Dover College said: 'I would like Kelly Holmes and my mum to be part of the Torch Relay because they have both inspired me to run and to keep going even when it's hard.' Some of our own experts are also involved in the Games. Peter Huggins, who is the fencing master for King's School in Rochester, has won a plum role as Head Armourer. Peter, who lives in Bearsted, told Wealden Times: 'I feel extremely honoured to have been appointed as the Head Armourer for all the fencing events at the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. I will head up a team of 23 and we will be working at full stretch for the duration of the fencing events as we have to work on pre-event checks, during the event checks and also there will be field of play controls to be carried out during team matches. 'The London Prepares fencing test event just before Christmas highlighted just how much effort needs to be applied to the controls on competitors' kit to ensure compliance with the rules for fair play, safety and the advertising regulations.' This ancient sport has great benefits for participants. Peter took up the activity when he was about 14. He recalls: 'My best friend, Tim, and I used to swash and buckle around in his back garden using a pair of real sabres owned by his father. When we were eventually caught his father organised for us to join the local fencing club and I have been with the sport ever since!' He has been Fencing Master at King's Rochester for 11 years. He coaches girls and boys in both the Preparatory School and the Senior School up to two sessions per week. Fencing is part of the core curriculum at King's and the pupils take the British Fencing Association proficiency awards. Peter added: 'Those that take up fencing will find their health improves both physically and mentally, and it is a great way to keep fit. Hand and eye coordination is improved as is one's feeling of general well-being. When the Games start, thousands of people who have never seen or taken part in our sport will have the opportunity to watch the best in the world competing at all three disciplines - foil, epee and sabre. This will give them a view to a sport that would welcome them.' There are many opportunities to take part in both fencing and handball locally - see the website links below. But why not challenge your young people to take up something new, once you have seen the sport done well at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics? Synchronised swimming, anyone?