VETERAN athlete and teacher Lucy Doughty is the driving force behind the sharp rise in competitive sport at one of the smallest primary schools in Swindon.

South Marston School is one of only two in the borough to receive a gold standard Sainsbury’s School Games Mark this year.

Nineteen schools across Swindon were recognised in the Government-led awards scheme – up from zero in 2013 – but only South Marston and Oakhurst Community Primary School were able to achieve the gold standard.

The scheme was launched in 2012 to reward schools for their commitment to the development of competition among pupils and into the community.

Andy Steckbeck, school games organiser for Swindon School Sport Partnership, said the awards were dished out according to how many events within Sainsbury’s School Games that a school attended.

Lucy, 43, has been at the school for seven years and was first attracted to it for its commitment to weekly swimming classes for every year group.

In her prime, Lucy was competing on the track in national finals over 1500m and in 2013 she was ranked seventh-fastest in the nation over the age of 40.

“I suppose I just feel that children really benefit from sport. I was quite academic and sport helped with my studies,” she said.

“People are sporty because it helps with everything and that’s not just for people who are talented. Everybody can benefit from sport.

“It’s not just about being the best. However good I got, there was always someone better.

“Everybody has been on board. The parents are really supportive of sport and there’s been lots of support from the staff – teachers and TAs [teaching assistants] believe in the power of sport, not just to become healthy, but everything.

“It can deliver self-esteem and academic results.”

Since Lucy arrived at South Marston she has tried to develop the house system to motivate those pupils not representing the school at sport. There has also been development of the summer sports day, with sponsorship from nearby Honda of the UK Manufacturing Ltd.

Last year, the school monitored its after-school clubs and found 80 per cent of its 102 pupils were attending at least one of its sporting clubs from football to netball and more.

There is a culture of celebrating success at the school too, with the support of headteacher Luke Maddison, there has become a tradition on Fridays of recognising medals and trophies won by pupils in assembly.

Transport has been central to attending the sporting events South Marston has become known for supporting.

Lucy said: “The support from parents for transport has enabled us to do this. We would have come a bit of a cropper without them.

“They [staff] don’t put obstacles on. They go out of their way to cover lunches. The head’s really supportive; he doesn’t create problems, he finds a way around them.”