A sport that involves getting hit repeatedly over the head may not seem the best way to get people interested in education.

But the two apparently opposing activities have been married together in Staffordshire with the launch of a new boxing academy.

The centre, based in Tamworth near Lichfield, has teamed up with a local college to provide a programme that mixes time in the boxing ring with classroom-based study.

One of only three in the country, the academy has already recruited 12 teenagers to start in September - three of them women.

But is a sport which the British Medical Association wants to see banned a healthy hook to engage youngsters in the learning process?

Academy leader Alan Keast believes so. An England grade one advanced coach, he has little time for those who knock his beloved sport.

"If we were training people to be gladiators then they might have a point," he said.

"But we are here to teach the noble art of boxing. It is an activity that is not even in the top 20 most dangerous sports in the world.

"It is the skill of discipline and being focused which complements academic study."

Students will mix at least one training session a day at the academy with mainly vocational studies at Tam-worth College.

The initiative follows similar schemes already running in Durham and Manchester which have had particular success in rehabilitating young offenders. Mr Keast, who helped train Commonwealth Games gold medal winners Don Broadhurst and Frankie Gavin, believes the Midland academy will make a similar impact.

"These are often youngsters who possibly don't have have much interest in education. The idea is to further that. There are a limited number of people who make any money out of boxing, but if we can give them an education at the same time we are equipping them for the future."

Youngsters at the academy will be able to study the full range of courses available at Tamworth College.

But it is anticipated there will be a particular emphasis on subjects such as leisure and tourism, and practical lessons in plumbing, computers, plastering and bricklaying.

Those on the programme will typically be aged 16 to 18 and study at national diploma level.

Far from putting them at risk of brain damage, Mr Keast is convinced getting in the ring will boost the youngsters in their studies.

"Boxing brings different qualities to different people," he said. "It gives self-confidence, self-respect. It inspires them for bigger and better things."

John Fontaine, assistant principle of Tamworth College, agrees.

"It will be very good for the students because it gives them two skills," he said.

"It's excellent training and we can provide them with a vocational qualification as well which will stand them in good stead later in life.

"We are hoping to be as flexible as possible so they can take any number of vocational routes. We will tailor it for them."

Mr Fontaine is also not worried about the health implications.

"It is safer to be involved in a boxing academy than going out in the town centre on a Saturday night," he said.