Sussex schoolchildren match-up at football tournament to tackle pandemic isolation

Hundreds of West Sussex pupils took to the field at a charity football tournament aimed at bringing young people together in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The competition, held at the University of Chichester, was fought between nearly 200 boys and girls from eight secondary schools across the Chichester, Bognor Regis, and Selsey districts.

Its goal was to help children, all aged 11 and 12 years old, improve their social skills and psychological development, after mostly learning from home for the last two years.

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Organiser Dr Danny Potter, a senior lecturer in sport development and management at the university, said: “This is the first sports tournament many students will have attended since 2019.

Hundreds of pupils from schools across the area took part in the charity football tournament

"It proved an important developmental step not only for their physical and tactical footballing knowledge but also their social and psychological progression.”

According to a recent report by Ofsted, UK children are lagging behind in their communication and language skills because of Covid disruption.

PE teacher Emily Buckingham, from The Regis School in Bognor, said: “After the last two years, our children are more eager than ever to get out of the classroom.

"We’ve also seen a huge increase in girls playing the game, and we’ve brought nearly as many girls teams here as boys.”

The tournament was held in memory of Chichester student Joe Sharpe, who was a promising football coach before his tragic death in 2016, with the winning school receiving the Sharpie Shield.

Teams were trained by undergraduates on the University’s football coaching and performance course, who are working to become managers in the game.

Callum, 11, from St Philip Howard in Barnham, said: “For the last two years I’ve had to learn from home, so it is amazing to come and meet new people.”

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