IT is an astonishing achievement – the boys’ team and the girls’ team representing England at the World Schools Athletics contest, have both been picked from Southend schools.

Even before they set foot in China, where the event is being held, they deserve victory laurels. It is hard to grasp the extent of the focus and commitment, not to mention the hours of practice, that must have been poured into the drive to be selected. But without in any way diminishing the attainment of the young people in the athletics teams, a success like this can only be achieved in the right environment.

The schools in question, Southend High for Boys and Southend High for Girls, also deserve recognition. Head teacher Robin Bevan has gone further, and attributed some of the success to Southend itself, calling the triumph “a real reflection of the spirit of a can do town.”

On the same day that he made the statement, business leaders at the Essex Means Business conference were busy praising the county’s economic performance and in particular, its tradition of innovation. This too is a reflection of the “can do” approach which typifies people in the county and the sense of determination that they bring to their working, as well as their sporting, lives.

No doubt some of the girls and boys in the athletics teams are themselves set to be future leaders in business and politics.

The discipline required to succeed so well in athletics will have provided a good training.