A SUCCESSFUL school-led organisation has helped more than 3,000 primary school children enjoy sporting activities over the past year.

The award-winning Atherton and Tyldesley Sports Association (ATSA) was founded in 2011 by Mark Grogan, head teacher of St George’s Central CE Primary School in Tyldesley.

Since then ATSA has grown in size and popularity, with thousands of pupils now regularly taking part in a wide range of sports thanks to the organisation.

ATSA’s annual report shows 3,044 pupils from 34 primary schools across the borough, two secondary schools and even a university were involved in delivering 33 different sports through 55 events in 2015-16.

They include football, tag rugby, tennis, swimming and netball as well as less traditional school sports such as cycle speedway, crown green bowling, squash and golf.

ATSA also helps children learn new skills and knowledge, including first aid and sports psychology, and offers a mini whistlers referee course.

Mr Grogan is a passionate supporter of the power of sport to not only improve children’s health but also their overall wellbeing.

“Of course there are the physical benefits to the children of playing sport but more and more we see the social and mental health benefits of being involved,” he said.

“There is nothing better for a child than being involved in a team and the fun and friendship that goes with that.

“Our motto is ‘Friendship through Sport’ and we now have lots of children from different primary schools making friends thanks to them being involved in our events.

“We are extremely pleased that ATSA is going from strength to strength and I would like to thank all our partners, community clubs and supporters who continue to help us deliver successful and high quality sporting events.”

Atherton, Atherleigh, Tyldesley and Astley Mosley Common councillors helped fund the publication of the ATSA directory through Brighter Borough funding.

Cllr Jo Platt, Wigan Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “We are so fortunate to have an organisation like ATSA that is providing such rich sporting experiences for our children here in the borough.

“Mr Grogan and his team have a done an absolutely fantastic job to co-ordinate and run these events year-on-year.

“There are many benefits for children being involved in sport, including physical and mental wellbeing as well as the social side, which is crucial as children move up from primary school into secondary school.”

Children from St George’s and Hindsford primary schools in Atherton took part in the mini whistlers course and enjoyed learning how to be a referee and all about respect, rules, dress code, the off-side rule and using yellow and red cards.

Oliver Briggs, 10, said: “I think it is amazing that us children can learn what referees do at such a young age.

“I enjoyed it and I can’t wait to learn more things.”

Harry Edwards-Shorter, 11, added: “It was an amazing chance to learn more about refereeing, and it could be a career path for us in the future.

“I didn’t know that much about football before and it opened my eyes to a new world of opportunities.”

Rachel Clarke, 10, said: “It was really fun learning about referees.

“I play for a team for girls. I like making new friends and I really like playing the game.”