A series of health challenges have helped to keep thousands of children active and engaged - ensuring a sports partnership is continuing to lead the way.

Primary schools from across Lowestoft, Beccles and Southwold have ensured that physical activity levels remain high during the the school day and beyond, with new health initiatives increasing participation levels.

Reflecting on the evolution of school sport in the past year, Jeffrey Hoey, partnership development manager for the North Suffolk Sport & Health Partnership, has hailed its success.

He said: "Looking back over the last 12 months, school sport has changed a lot in Lowestoft and Beccles.

"The local sports partnership has a proud history of delivery high quality competitions and supporting schools since it was first established in 2005.

"But in the last year it has seen its biggest ever evolution."

With the traditional calendar of sport and health festivals that the partnership runs annually forced to stop last February amid the continuing coronavirus crisis, events moved onto a virtual platform for the first time last March.

Mr Hoey said: "The transition to virtual challenges was embraced straight away, with 250 youngsters taking part in the inaugural gymnastics event.

"By the end of the academic year over 5,000 children, teachers and local families had taken part in the partnership challenges."

With children back in school in September, Covid issues still stopped a return to traditional school sport, so the partnership created a series of team based in-school challenges - giving more than 7,500 children some connectivity to others.

Mr Hoey said: "With the new national lockdown this term, the partnership has moved back to virtual challenges but with the addition of a health twist.

"As well as the seven sports challenges, health challenges are running alongside each one - such as Reading Challenges, Hobby Challenges, and Being Active at Home."

The approach has been "very successful" with more than 3,500 children having already taken part in the last three weeks.

"This is 50 per cent more than our normal take up which was already the highest in Suffolk," Mr Hoey added.

"This success has been down to all the hard work of teachers, families and Mr Forwood - from Roman Hill - who came up with the health challenge concepts.

"Throughout the pandemic our schools have been amazing in supporting our virtual challenges and creating their own personal challenges and health programmes for their children and families.

"This movement towards getting children moving has been a real success story for Lowestoft and Beccles, with other areas of the country using our methods and challenges to try and emulate the success we have achieved."