Schools outside for summer
On Thursday 6 July, schools from across Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes joined our annual School Games event. Competitive athletics and swimming were held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium and inclusive Tennis coaching at Halton Tennis Club. In addition, BMX cycling, skateboarding and multisport activities were held at Aston Clinton Park. What a great opportunity for participating pupils to get outside on a dry summer’s day!
Give it a go! Activity sessions
In the past, the School Games were filled with competitive activities; an opportunity for those who excel in sports to pitch their talents against others in the county. However, the aims of School Games Organisers and Leap have evolved. Whilst inter-school competitions are offered, the main focus of this day was to offer a positive experience of movement to less active young people.
In every school, some children don’t make the team or have talents in areas other than P.E. As such, they can lack confidence in their sporting abilities and may have negative associations with sport. Leap was keen to plan a range of short, engaging activities to give attendees the chance to try something new. The aim is to get young people outdoors and active, to inspire them to give things a go and to challenge their thinking about their abilities.
What’s more, this style of event provides an opportunity for Young Sports Leaders from local secondary schools to gain experience. Young Leaders from Years 9, 10 and 11 took charge of instructing, demonstrating and engaging pupils in multi-sport sessions. Professional coaches led the Tennis, BMX, skateboarding and inflatable activities.
Thoughts on Arrival
The young people had no idea what activities they would be taking part in when they arrived. As they aren’t naturally sporty, some were a little apprehensive about what was in store. A quick poll at the start of the day showed how they were feeling:
49% – delighted
19% – happy
14% – okay
11% – worried
7% – unhappy
What were their initial thoughts?
“Will there be football, I like football?”
“I’ve been here before, this park is good.”
“The building block challenge looks good because I like solving problems.”
“I’m a bit worried, I don’t know what we’ll have to do and I’m not good at sports.”
“I’ve not been here before, what will we do?”
“We’ve been practising for sports day in our P.E. lessons. I think that will help today.”
“I think this will be better than staying in school.”
“The rest of our year has gone on a residential, so it’s good that we get to do something.”
Activities and children up and running
When the activities kicked off, it was immediately evident that, despite worries, the vast majority were willing to give things a go. With encouragement and support, they realised it didn’t matter if they didn’t get the ball over the net or get to the end of the hoop race first. You could see them relaxing, enjoying the activities, jumping around with excitement and smiling.
During the demonstrations, especially BMX and skateboarding, many of the participants stated ‘I can’t do that’, but then they tried and succeeded. You could see the determination, surprise and delight on their faces.
Talking to the young people during and after the sessions, the feeling was generally upbeat. The exception was some of the tennis players had lost enthusiasm, realising it wasn’t their thing. Some stated that the session had gone on too long and they wanted to get back to school.
“Tennis has been difficult. The ball is too high for me to reach. I prefer swimming and I do swimming galas. In the summer I go cold water swimming with my auntie. That is what I enjoy.”
“I don’t like it. I don’t like most sports. When can we leave?”
However, the majority of participants were actively engaged throughout. Many were brimming with pride about what they had achieved.
“I’ve played cricket and football at school, but this is new.”
“I scored 25 points on the football inflatable, so did she, and he got 100!”
“I did it! This is so much fun! Before, I didn’t even know if I could ride a bike properly.”
“I’ve enjoyed everything, all of it. I’ve not tried volleyball or the sponge thing before, but it was fun.”
“I’ve never had a bike, so I only ride sometimes when I borrow a friend’s bike. I haven’t ridden in years, so it was great to try the BMX, even though I wasn’t great at it.”
“It’s so much fun!”
“To be honest, I only signed up to get out of school, but it’s been great. We learnt how to do tricks and some new skills. I’m going to tell everyone back at school about it and tell them we had ice cream after.”
“It’s been brilliant. Blind football and football tennis were my favourites. It’s the first time I’ve tried badminton.”
“I wish we could do this every Thursday.”
“The hoop race and cricket were best. They were challenging, but we did well.”
“What’s the thing with the white thing you hit? Badminton, yes, badminton was good.”
“I’ve enjoyed all of it. The trampoline bounce game, cricket and volley were the best.”
“I play football at school, but we tried new things here like blind football and rugby.”
“The hoop race was good and some boys tried to cheat, but they got sent back to the start, so we won.”
“I’ve gone from barely knowing how to ride a bike to standing up on one; it feels like I’ve just had lots of sugar!”
Engaged and energised young leaders
Assigned to a multi-sport station, the young leaders helped one group after another to understand the activity and give it a go. Their positive attitudes and energy kept the participants engaged.
Several teachers voiced that the Young Leaders had been kind and encouraging, especially to pupils who found activities more challenging. They were also adaptable – if the trampoline ball bounce activity was easy, pupils were asked to clap twice before catching.
“The young leaders have been helpful and kind. One of our girls has special needs and the girl leading the first session identified that straight away and helped her throughout.”
What were the Young Leaders’ thoughts on being part of the School Games?
“I set up a gym club at school, so have experience of leading sessions, but it is different working with younger people. They are very excited and won’t stop moving!”
“This is a great experience, I want to become a football coach and this is giving me practice in how to help people out. It’s good to see how you can support someone”
“Almost all the young people have got involved. Because we’re taller than them, they listen and look up to you.”
“This is different to what I expected, thought it would be more like a sports day, but it’s been good.”
“I thought we’d be in a dingy hall, indoors, but this is much better than I expected. I’d do it again.”
“The kids seemed to love the energetic games and being challenged. They also had fun with the water game and anything that involved hitting things.”
“It’s harder to communicate with the younger ones than it is when we lead activities in school. You have to be adaptable to get and keep their attention.”
“I like connecting with young people and influencing them. We’ve done the Girls Active leadership training and it’s good to get young people involved in sport.”
“The kids were excited and being here has helped me to gain experience and get more confidence.”
“I think the event is well run. We could have used more space, as the kids kept running into each other, but they didn’t seem too bothered.”
“I want to study sports science at college and this is a great experience to help me on the course.”
Did we reach the intended participants?
The event welcomed schools from the north and south of the county, as well as one within walking distance of the venue. Each school was asked to select young people who weren’t natural athletes and who may not get other opportunities to represent the school. So, how did they select the attendees?
“We selected students that hadn’t represented the school in sports events before. They were a bit nervous and needed reassurance that this isn’t a competition, just a fun event.”
“The pupils we brought are from our social, emotional and educational needs group. It wasn’t easy getting parental consent for all of them – there are some cultural challenges, especially bringing girls to an event like this, but we think it’s important, so we sorted it.”
“We have brought the whole of Year 4 – we see it as a fun team building experience for them.”
“We picked young people who don’t participate in much sport outside of school and who we knew would appreciate coming.”
“We used this as a reward for good behaviour in class and good conduct around the school. Students were invited and those with an interest have come along.”
“Our (SEN) group includes two students who are training to become sports leaders and a couple who love sports, as well as students who are less active; definitely part of the video game generation.”
“As requested, we picked the inactive children who haven’t represented the school. Some are SEN, others what you might call vulnerable. For some, it is their first school trip and a few haven’t been out of Milton Keynes before, so they were nervous. This is a great place for them to come to because it’s open and there are other things that they could do if they have enough of the activity.”
Challenging or rewarding for schools to participate?
It was good to hear the thoughts of teachers about the events, pupil participation and organising time out of school. Was the effort of arranging staffing, transport and parent consent worth it?
“Getting parent consent is the biggest challenge. When we contacted some parents, it was clear that they were struggling to fill the form in. This is one of the reasons why some of these students don’t get to participate in things.”
“The workshop style of the BMX and skateboarding sessions is good and the coaches sold it to our kids from the start. They knew they weren’t competing, just challenging themselves. It’s great to give an opportunity to the not-so-sporty.”
“Most of the multi-sport activities don’t require a lot of fancy equipment, so some could work in our P.E. lessons – it’s been good for ideas.”
“For us, the logistics have been easier to arrange at this time of year. I can drive the minibus and staffing wasn’t an issue.”
“It’s very well organised. We were just a bit confused about which activity we were meant to move onto in the multi-sports after the break session. It has been great for our kids.”
“There are some great activity ideas in the multi-sports, we love the bucket and sponge one, which is great for teamwork and doesn’t need much equipment. That is a good idea that we could take back to school.”
“As well as taking part, it is great to see the young people’s positive attitude– they are cheering each other on and being encouraging.”
“This is a difficult week because there have been teacher strikes, a pupil awards evening and other events outside of the usual run of things.”
“I’m impressed by all of them. They’ve listened, been determined to give things a go and have achieved a lot in a short session. It’s good to see them doing something different, succeeding and cheering each other on.”
A chance to meet sporting icons
Leap is grateful to Stoke Park for School Games event sponsorship. In partnership with SportsAid, several talented young athletes visited the event to inspire the young people. Dressed in GB kits, they instantly grabbed attention, particularly among secondary school participants.
Sir William Borlaise School noticed that the long jump athlete was an ex-pupil. They invited her over for a photo with the group and were bombarding her with questions. They were keen to tell her about their long jump achievements and were in awe when she said she’d recently cleared 6 meters!
The value of non-competitive sport events
There has been a tradition in schools for competitive sports and these provide great opportunities for young athletes to discover and develop talents. These events are a starting point in a young person’s journey to sporting success and schools are justly proud of their sports trophy cabinets.
It can be more difficult to convince schools to participate in non-competitive events. We understand that it can seem like too much effort to arrange staffing, transport and parent consent for a small group to be out of school on what is often viewed as a jolly. However, encouraging all young people to be active is essential for their long-term health and well-being.
For some, the immediate outcome was significant. Although the sessions were relatively short, a couple of teachers identified participants who exceeded their expectations:
“One girl in our group hasn’t done one P.E. lesson this year. She turned up today in her P.E. kit – usually, she forgets to bring it to school – and is now joining in with the skateboarding. It’s great to see her taking part; it might be because it’s a small group, without the super sporty or big characters. Now we know she can do it, we’ll build on this and get her engaged at school.”
“One of our boys is difficult to keep engaged, even in P.E. lessons, and he is on the behaviour register. Yet, here he is, participating in the group, fully engaged in the activities and talking to you.”
“He just told you he plays tennis at school, but that’s table tennis. This is something new for him and he’s got a natural talent. He is so proud, wanting everyone to watch him do a two-ball rally and he doesn’t want to stop!”
Clearly, for some individuals, the event has been impactful. Overall, the high participation is evidence that even less sporty children can enjoy getting active. The key is creating a positive, supportive and fun environment. They will hopefully leave with a slightly changed attitude about their ability in sports and be willing to take up future opportunities to get active.
For more information on the School Games and how your school can get involved, visit our School Games webpage.