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- 23 September 2014 00:00
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- Last Modified: 23 September 2014 07:35
Sport England and the Youth Sport Trust believe that the Sainsbury’s School Games can continue to go from strength to strength following the successful conclusion of the 2014 edition of the competition.
The 2014 Sainsbury’s School Games finals were staged in Manchester earlier this month where over 1,600 of the nation’s finest young athletes competed across 12 Olympic and Paralympic sports.
The finals provided a spectacular finale to this year’s Sainsbury’s School Games – which began with smaller events across the country (at Levels 1-3) consisting of intra-school competitions, local inter-school competitions and regional School Games Festivals.
The finals will return to Manchester again next year and Sport England’s Director of Community Sport Mike Diaper is confident the competition will again prove hugely successful.
"We were nervous in 2012 when the first cycle of the Games took place because we thought it would be our peak but we have seen the exact opposite with more and more schools actually signing to join up to the event,” Diaper told Community Sport Network.
"Across Levels 1-3 we now have around 80% of schools in England taking part while the Level 4 finals have gone from strength to strength; with a dramatically increased programme for disabled people being something that I am particularly pleased to see.
"The plan moving forward is to keep this momentum going and what I would like to see, particularly across Levels 1-3, is a real drive in quality.
"We have got the numbers in place now so quality should be the focus.
"I don’t want to just have an A and B team compete at Levels 1-3, I want to see a C, D,E and F team all involved so that we really do give as many people as possible the chance to compete in sport.”
Youth Sport Trust CEO John Steele is equally pleased with the evolution of the event.
"What we are seeing is a maturing at all levels of the Sainsbury’s School Games,” Steele told Community Sport Network.
"At Levels 1-3, things are really taking hold so that we are seeing in schools the benefits of well structured competitive sport and the additional lifestyle benefits that provides for young people.
"At Level 4, with the finals, we are starting to see the impact the event has had as we trace it back to superstar athletes like sprinter Adam Gemili and Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds because the Sainsbury’s School Games was their first multi-sport event.
"Competing at a multi-sport event like the Sainsbury’s School Games provides fantastic foundations for athletes who go on to big things at elite level and we have seen that.
"Over 150 former Sainsbury's School Games competitors appeared at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games this year with 59 athletes claiming 84 medals for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
"So we are seeing a real impact from the event and the Level 4 finals have now become a significant event in their own right.”
Both Steele and Diaper are also confident that the Sainsbury’s School Games will continue to receive Government support in the future regardless of the results of the 2015 General Election in May this year.
"We have had really good support from Sainsbury’s as a corporate sponsor and from Sport England through the National Lottery,” said the Youth Sport Trust CEO.
"Sport England has shown that they really believe in this and they have invested very shrewdly to make it happen.
"I hope that continues in the future because we now have NGBs, schools, parents, athletes and ourselves at the Youth Sport Trust all really believing in what this can do and believing in the benefits that it provides.
"I also think Government realises that there are some really big issues in our society – such as obesity and emotional wellbeing amongst young people – where physical education and school sport is part of the answer.
"It is not the whole answer but it is certainly part of the answer.
"Therefore I am delighted that at the Youth Sport Trust, we are one of a number of partners who have managed to drive change and investment from the Government to support programme and initiatives like the Sainsbury’s School Games that help young people embrace sport as part of their lives.
"That will always be one of our key roles moving forwards.”
Diaper is equally confident about the future.
"No one can foresee what will happen with the General Election next year but I think the way that you ensure things keep going is to demonstrate that they are actually doing something good,” said the Sport England Director of Community Sport.
"I think we are doing that with the Sainsbury’s School Games because we are delivering a really great sporting competition for as many children as possible.
"What that has done is help children build teamwork, leadership, discipline and other skills which are really important for their development.
"So I hope we have got something here that is really future-proof.
"I am confident looking ahead because the Coalition Government has been great partners in this project and the School Games National Finals actually started under the Labour Government.
"So I think we are in the best place possible but obviously we have to wait to May 2015 to know for sure.”