Bradford schoolchildren now have a former British boxing champion fighting in their corner.

Charlie Watson, 44, a former British amateur welterweight champion, is passing on pugilistic skills to pupils throughout the district.

Mr Watson is keen to see youngsters from his home town benefit from the noble art and has launched non-contact classes which are proving a big hit with boys and girls.

He said: "With boxing, the key thing is building confidence and respect for yourself and others. Boxing is not about brutality but it is about working to achieve something better. We are not looking at making champion boxers but are helping to change lives."

Classes are strictly non-contact, with pupils hitting special padded gloves during sparring sessions.

Each session also includes activities which link in with traditional academic subjects. As part of science work, pupils find out more about how the body works, while maths features in activities based around sparring combinations and footwork.

"Staff at Tong School noticed an unbelievable difference after the first class was run," said Mr Watson, who won his British amateur welterweight title while still a teenager.

Nick McMahon, PE curriculum leader at Tong School, which has also launched its own weekly after-school boxing club, said in-school sessions had proved "a massive success".

He said: "We are trying to raise confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills.

"One lad who was on the verge of getting kicked out of school came to a boxing session and we have managed to show him to a local club, and he has been impeccably behaved ever since.

"The classes we lead are non-contact and are based around technique. The girls love it just as much as the boys."

Tong pupil Darren Tetley, 14, of Holme Wood, said taking part had helped "keep him fit and keep him off the streets".

He said: "Charlie's great and it has been really good doing boxing at school."

Shayan Akhtar, 15, also a pupil at Tong, added: "The school has never done anything like this before - I hope it continues. They have got a professional boxer in to help us and we have learnt a lot from him."

Boxing skills classes are also taking place at nearby Yorkshire Matyrs Catholic College, St Paul's Primary in Buttershaw and High Fernley and Shirley Manor primary schools in Wyke. Last month, Sports Minister and Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe told the Telegraph & Argus he wanted schoolchildren across the country to take-up the sport.

Full-contact boxing has not been taught in schools since 1962 when it was banned from PE classes. However, Mr Sutcliffe said he believed the sport could have a positive effect on young people - a point echoed by Mr Watson.

"I read the piece in the T&A and agreed with Mr Sutcliffe," he said.

"If boxing was taught properly by trained teachers and the correct equipment used I would welcome its return into schools."

e-mail: dan.webber