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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 11:46 GMT
Schools bring back boxing lessons
Amir Khan
The schools hope they might find another Olympic boxing medallist
Boxing is being reintroduced in several schools to help pupils develop their mental and physical skills.

Some schools in Bromley, south London are incorporating the sport into PE lessons, under the supervision of the Amateur Boxing Association of England.

Boxing has not been taught in schools since 1962, when a campaign to ban it from PE classes won popular support.

Peter McCabe, chief executive of brain injury association Headway, urged the schools involved to reconsider.

Olympic Games

The director of sport at Beckenham's Kelsey Park Sports College, Matthew Strange, believes there could be a place for boxing within the national curriculum "due to the massive impact it can have on those young people involved".

"This type of activity requires young people to develop a range of mental and physical skills that are transferable to other aspects of learning.

"It is therefore possible to see this programme developing substantially as we approach the Olympics of 2012," he adds.

Children below the age of consent should not be allowed or encouraged to box
Peter McCabe

His school reintroduced boxing after it gave a new home to a local boxing club that had closed down.

It had such a positive effect on the pupils involved that the school decided to take things further.


Head teacher of Orpington's Priory School, Nicholas Ware, told the BBC his school had reintroduced boxing because it had wanted to offer "as wide a range of sporting opportunities for young people as possible" as part of the school's new sports status.

He added: "In a sense, we are not really boxing yet.

"We have had a year where students are engaged in fitness for boxing which has involved no contact whatsoever - it's really based around fitness using the pads and using the gloves.

"With all the right safety equipment and close supervision from the Amateur Boxing Association, those who have been through this year's initial training are now engaged in sparring," Mr Ware said.

There are plenty of ways to develop fitness, agility and courage without introducing boxing
Sue, Birmingham

He added that only pupils who had opted to take part were involved and that it was certainly not compulsory.

"This is purely for developing fitness levels in youngsters and getting them engaged in sport and trying to identify who may be another Amir Khan."

'Brain damage'

But Headway's Mr McCabe said he was astonished that boxing was being reintroduced to schools.

"I am pleased to hear that they have not really got involved in fights yet and I would urge the school to reconsider. I think the governors have a responsibility.

"Eleven medical associations around the world have said chronic brain damage is caused by recurrent blows to the head, experienced by all boxers.

"As long as it is legal to hit an opponent above the neck - there aren't any safety precautions which can prevent this damage."

He stressed that there was a long list of boxers who had died or sustained serious injuries in the ring.

"Children below the age of consent should not be allowed or encouraged to box.

"It's quite wrong and will result in more injuries which Headway will have to deal with."

1960s campaign

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said it did not specify which sports should be taught in schools so boxing is not on the national curriculum.

"But schools are free to offer it if they choose. They should of course bear in mind the safety precautions that should be in place.

"Generally we consider boxing to be best offered through boxing clubs with qualified boxing coaches."

Chairman of the Amateur Boxing Association Keith Walters said boxing in schools could benefit children by boosting their overall fitness, reaching out to disengaged young people and improving their self-esteem, discipline and self confidence.

In the early 1960s Edith Summerskill MP tried to get boxing removed from schools sports curriculum but lost several votes in Parliament.

However, her campaign won popular support and after many parents wrote to schools asking their children to be excused from classes involving boxing, the sport was gradually removed from schools.

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