Hackney school children get active with local Paralympic hero

Primary school children from across Hackney are getting the chance to learn from the best during classes led by local Paralympic swimmer Dervis Konuralp.

As part of the Council’s 2012-inspired ‘Hackney Personal Bests’ athletics programme, Dervis is visiting 40 primary schools to inspire nine to 11-year-olds to become more active.

All pupils take part in three sports sessions where they compete against their own personal best time in seven sports – javelin, long jump, triple jump, shot put, discus, speed bounce and relays.

They record their improvements with the incentive that the five boys and five girls from each school who have improved the most will compete in the Hackney Personal Bests final at Hackney Downs Park on 7 July.

The children also take part in a class with Dervis, who is Hackney’s official Olympic and Paralympic Ambassador, where they are given their own workbook and encouraged to understand how important diet and exercise are for good health.

Steve Douglas, Corporate Director for Neighbourhoods and Regeneration at Hackney Council, said: “As a host borough for the 2012 Games, we want to show our young residents the opportunities, enjoyment and health benefits that sport can bring to our lives. Dervis is a great role model and really knows how to inspire the children and give them the confidence to get involved and try new activities.”

Dervis Konuralp, who competed at the Beijing 2008 Paralympics, said: “I really enjoy working with the children on Hackney Personal Bests and encouraging them to enjoy new activities. It doesn’t matter what ability you are, you can always try to improve on your own score. Sport helped me so much and I hope it can do the same for other young people.”

Children of all abilities can join in, it doesn’t matter how far you can throw or how fast you can run; the question is can you go faster or throw further? Personal Bests is there to teach you how to do that, get fit and have fun.”

Hackney Personal Bests is now in its third year and will involve around 1,500 children. All participating schools are given customised kit, including T-shirts and sports equipment, and have the option of running extra weekly after school clubs.

Among the schools involved this year, five are special schools, including Stormont House and Whitmore Primary School. The independent Muslim school, Tawid School for Boys, and the Orthodox Jewish school, Simon Marks, are taking part for the first time. The Council s ambition is that by 2012 every primary school will take part.

The programme has recently been the focus of international attention when a delegation from Beijing visited Grazebrook Primary School’s training session. The group included the Deputy Mayor and councillors from Haidian, the Beijing borough which housed the media centres for the Beijing 2008 Games. The visitors are looking into how a similar programme can be run in their schools.