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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:-   10 July 2006

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Children dance their way to health

TWO sporting heroes are to help 40 schools celebrate winning a top national award for getting children fitter and healthier.  The schools have met stringent criteria over the last 6 months and have been given the government's new "National Healthy School" status.

To qualify, they have to meet a number of criteria in personal, social and health education, healthy eating, physical activity and emotional health and well-being.

Olympic bronze medal swimmer Stephen Parry and England women's goalkeeper Rachel Brown will join representatives from the 40 schools who have qualified at the Crowne Plaza.  It will include tai chi performances from pupils at Lister Infants, cheerleading from youngsters at Dovecot Primary and dancing and drums from students at Notre Dame Arts College.  The schools will be officially presented with their awards by Councillor Paul Clein, executive member for children's services and Paula Grey, Director of Public Health in Liverpool.

Councillor Clein said:- "We have made a huge commitment in our Children and Young People's plan to improving the fitness and well being of youngsters.  All the evidence we have shows that physical education combined with healthy eating can lead to an improvement in mental agility. That is why this project is so important, as it is vital we change the couch potato culture."

Each school has to ensure each pupil gets 2 hours of structured exercise per week and involves parents and pupils in developing menus for school dinners. They also have to take steps to combat stigma and discrimination such as disability, racism and bullying.

Stephen Tiffany, effectiveness officer for physical education at the city council, said:- "Schools can only qualify for the award if they can demonstrate that they are taking major steps towards improving the health of pupils.  The fact that so many already have demonstrates the success of our commitment to reducing childhood obesity."  It is hoped that up a 3rd of Liverpool's 200 schools will qualify for Healthy Schools status by the end of the year.

UK CONSUMERS STILL IN DEBT AT 70

THE latest survey from Equifax, the instant online credit information provider, looks into the money management of its customers. The comprehensive research shows that it’s not just young people who are struggling with debt, but many of the older generation still have significant mortgage debts and not many years to pay it off, coupled with trying to survive on a much lower income.

The most startling figures show that 42% of those aged between 61 and 70 still have a mortgage, with 29% saying it is over 2.5 times their annual salary. With 24% still paying a mortgage of up to £150,000 the Equifax survey shows that retirement may not be a bed of roses for some of the UK’s older generation. And for 12% it is funding their children’s first steps on the property ladder that is causing the pressure.

“Recently there has been great concern about young people and debt, but our survey reveals that the older generation also needs support when it comes to dealing with debt,” explains Neil Munroe, External Affairs Director of Equifax.

The figures reveal that 21% of 61 to 70 year olds have short-term debts of over £5,000 and 42% still have a mortgage. 19% have remortgaged their property in the last year, further extending their debts, which puts even more pressure on them at a time when they had probably hoped to be looking forward to a comfortable retirement. Of those that have remortgaged, 40% did so to get a better deal. This is, of course, a positive way to manage finances. 20% said they took this action to release equity for their retirement; 12% did so to help their children get on the property ladder.

Munroe continues:- “Mortgage debt is at a record high and the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) is predicting high levels of arrears and repossessions with the prospect of interest rates rising. With so many people in their later years still paying off a mortgage, our findings are real cause for concern. Indeed, they only serve to highlight the importance of saving for the future and encouraging consumers to stay in control of their finances at all stages of their life."

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