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19 May 2008

The summer term is in full swing - and as well as negotiating equations and swotting up on physics, increasing numbers of pupils across the nation are dusting off their trainers.

Just 18 months since the launch of the Welsh Assembly Government’s £7.6million 5x60 scheme, it is ready to be rolled out to the remainder of secondary schools in Wales, ensuring that no-one is left on the sidelines.

Minister for Sport Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM believes the Sports Council for Wales-managed programme is making significant inroads into encouraging more youngsters to be more active, more often: NU7C0375

"We’re 18 months in and as part of our on-going commitment to increase physical activity participation levels, The Sports Council for Wales has been asked to get all secondary schools signed up to 5 x 60 by this September. I hope that schools will grasp this great opportunity because as well as introducing youngsters to new opportunities, the programme is also offering added value with regard to the wider development of young people.

"We’re receiving feedback that 5 x 60 is having the power to boost confidence and it’s certainly shifting attitudes towards physical activity. Changing the way young people think is fundamental. If young people enjoy their experiences in the school environment, they will be more likely to pursue their interest into adulthood," he added.

NU7C04205x60 provides pupils with a mixed bag of opportunities which are based on those available in the local area. The programme embraces outdoor and adventure activities such as surfing and climbing as well as recreational activities such as aerobics and martial arts.

Proving the most popular among girls is dance which features right at the top of the league table while football, fitness and cheerleading are also favoured. Meanwhile, boys tend to swerve towards dodge-ball but they also beat a path to the football pitch and the basketball court.

Chair of the Sports Council for Wales, Philip Carling explains:

"The underlying goal is to encourage those who do not take part in sport to get active. When pupils are reluctant to take part, 5x60 officers are on hand to listen to concerns and to help overcome any hurdles. There is still more work to be done to encourage more girls as we are seeing less female participation. That will be something that we will need to explore over the coming months."

Indeed, the bid to increase participation among women and girls is a key target of the Wales Assembly Government and Sports Council for Wales.

During year one, thirty-nine schools were involved in the programme. And as the bell tolled on the start of the new 2007/2008 term, a further 86 schools hopped on board which are now fully operational. During 2008’s Spring term alone, more than 8000 5x60 sessions took place – an increase of nearly 3000 on the autumn term.

Almost 650 young people have also had the opportunity this term to develop leadership know-how. Working under the guidance of full-time 5x60 officers, pupils have helped to deliver a multitude of activities – including inter-form competitions - in every local authority.

"The leadership opportunities provided by the 5x60 programme will be fundamental to the development of coaches and volunteers for the next generation. This future workforce will be essential in delivering the targets set by the Welsh Assembly’s Climbing Higher strategy," added Mr Carling.

To find out more about the Welsh Assembly Government’s 5x60 programme visit