The countdown to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil is well underway, but hundreds of Northumberland youngsters will be going for gold a little closer to home this summer.
The Northumberland School Games and Para Games will see more than 1,500 participants from schools across the county taking part in 11 different sports and a range of other activities.
The qualification process has started and will culminate in a spectacular two-day final to be held at Cramlington Learning Village on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 21 and 22.
This year’s event is sponsored by The Education Network, the North East’s largest specialist education recruitment and training business.
Glenn McCrory, the former world boxing champion who has recently been appointed The Education Network’s sports ambassador, will attend the Games to speak to competitors and urge them on.
Now in their fifth year, the Northumberland School Games will feature athletics, football, gymnastics, handball, hockey, netball, tennis, tri-golf, rounders, rugby and volleyball.
Like the Olympics, the opening and closing ceremonies at the finals event will see participants parade behind flags and spectators will be entertained by music, cheerleading and performing arts.
The Northumberland School Para Games will be held at the new Ashington Leisure Centre on Tuesday, April 26.
Students with special needs will participate in various competitive and non-competitive events including the Paralympic sport of boccia, swimming, wheelchair basketball, hula hooping, fencing and archery.
Franki Clark, co-event manager, said: “No youngster in the county need miss out on the Northumberland School Games.
“There is of course a competitive element to the event, but we encourage all students to participate irrespective of their ability level.
“There are also opportunities for young sports leaders to volunteer in the organisation and delivery of the event and for anyone to participate in the cultural aspects of the opening and closing ceremonies and the athlete parade.”
In the 2015 Northumberland School Games and Para Games, 1,171 competitors – representing 67 schools – took part.
More than 470 young sports leaders volunteered in the running of the event and 300 pupils took part in healthy activities and performance.
Managing director of The Education Network, Kevin Gill, said: “The Northumberland School Games are a fantastic celebration of sporting effort and achievement.
“For some competitors, the games may be the first step on the path to future Olympic glory while for others they will provide a fun opportunity to participate in a sport for the first time.
“Irrespective of their ability, I hope every participating youngster will enjoy the challenge of competing in the Northumberland School Games.”
As well as sponsoring the Games, The Education Network leads on various campaigns to promote participation in team and individual school sports and other fitness activities.
The company has previously arranged conferences that brought PE teachers together to share best practice and discuss new ways to maximise participation in sport and raise awareness of healthy living among children and families.
And in 2015, The Education Network joined forces with the North East Partnership SCITT (School-centred Initial Teacher Training) to support the development and employment of the next generation of outstanding PE teachers.
The partnership continues to provide support to 37 trainee PE teachers, helping them into full-time employment in local schools once qualified.