Pupils paddle together for Stevenage dragon boat festival

THERE were drummers drumming and paddlers paddling on Thursday when children took to the water for a schools dragon boat festival.

A total of 29 teams from 16 schools in Stevenage and the surrounding villages competed at Fairlands Valley Park in the town.

Each team was made up of 11 pupils aged between nine and 11, with one student keeping the paddlers in time by beating a drum.

Codicote, Lodge Farm and Graveley schools won a place in the final heat with Codicote winning narrowly by a paddle stroke.

Kevin Browne, deputy headteacher at Codicote School, said: “We had a great day, although it was very wet. It was superbly organised and the kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

“The final was amazing, it was a bit like watching the Olympics. We were a bit behind with five metres to go but just snatched victory. At first we really didn’t know who had won – it was that close.”

Graveley School teacher Victoria Wisker added: “It was a fantastic day for all the students and staff involved. Even though the weather was damp it did not dampen the spirits of those involved.”

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The day was organised by Stevenage Leisure Limited and the Stevenage School Sports Partnership (SSP).

Jill Eaton, partnership development manager, said: “This is the eighth year we have run the festival. Initially there was a hesitation with some schools because it was something new and with safety, but as confidence has grown, so has the event.

“Even in the challenging circumstances with government funding being withdrawn from sports partnerships the hope is this event will continue next year with Stevenage Leisure continuing to work closely with the SSP which will become the Stevenage sporting futures team in September.”

The children were supported on the day by young leaders and coaches from Nobel, John Henry Newman, Thomas Alleyne and Barnwell schools who helped crew the boats.