Looking for the Olympic legacy

Written by: HTU | Published:

London 2012 has captured the imaginations of primary schools across the country, but what of the prospects for a legacy that will last well beyond the closing ceremony? Nick Bannister reports

Legacy. It is a word that describes a big concept and it was central to London’s successful bid to win the Games back in 2005.

Legacy remains core to London 2012 and a lot of work has been put into ensuring that once the festivities finish that the Olympic infrastructure – along with all the participation and goodwill generated by the event – does not go to waste.

And school involvement in the event has been a key part of the organising committee’s legacy work. The Get Set education programme is the main way schools are getting involved in the Games.

The initiative provides free learning resources for children and young people to find out more about the Games and explore Olympic and Paralympic values. It also offers prizes and opportunities through competitions and partner programmes. More than 23,500 schools and colleges – 80 per cent of UK schools – are now registered with the programme.

The programme has played a major part in building the anticipation now being felt in primary schools around the country. And while the focus of most of the UK is firmly on the opening of the Games on July 27 and the Paralympics on August 29, there are headteachers who hope that the event will leave a lasting legacy in their schools.

For Jayne McHale, headteacher of Edgewick Community Primary in Coventry, involvement with the Olympics has been about opening up youngsters’ eyes to the wider world and encouraging them to adopt the Olympic values such as respect, friendship and doing your best.

She said: “The obvious driver for us was to make the very best use of the opportunities that we have been given. We won’t see the Olympics in our country again in our lifetimes so on a basic level it would be very remiss not to make the best of the opportunity.

“We want our children to remember the Olympics. And we were lucky enough to have someone here at the school who was motivated enough to start this all off about 18 months ago.”

That someone was Ruthie Hegarty, a learning mentor who used her professional experience as a former events manager to lead all the school’s Olympics activities. These have included giving pupils the chance to try out many new Olympic and Paralympic sports and the setting up of a wider variety of after-school sports clubs to sustain children’s interest in these opportunities. Links have also been forged with local sports clubs, including the Godiva Harriers athletics club and Coventry City Football Club.

In addition to sport, the school has incorporated the Olympics and Paralympics as ongoing themes in all subject areas, including maths, literacy, geography, history, art and design, design technology, PE, PSHE and citizenship. Enthusiasm was stimulated early by the Get Set programme’s design a mascot competition, with four students travelling to London to present their winning design.

The school has also developed a rewards system based on the Olympic values. When a pupil demonstrates that they are living an Olympic or Paralympic value they receive a wristband embossed with that word, as recognition of their actions.

Edgewick’s Olympics involvement has led to greater co-operation with other Coventry schools. The school led the planning for a combined school drama performance based around the Olympic values. Each school then produced its own scene to create one whole play – a performance based around the story of an athlete training to compete in the Olympics. The final performance combined all the sections and brought together more than 200 children from eight schools to perform in the city’s Ricoh Arena.

Ms McHale continued: “Most of our pupils are Muslim and some feel very isolated so it has been really important for our children to feel really part of something that’s a national celebration.

“It’s important that they feel included and that they can contribute to it. We’ve achieved that. There’s not a child in this school who could not tell you about the Olympics.

“It’s certainly had an effect at a basic level. The children are a lot fitter for a start. And they are certainly more interested in becoming involved in activities. They have a go and look forward to having a go. I certainly hope that this work will give our children a long-term sense about their place in the world.”

The London 2012 Organising Committee is confident that the Games will leave a lasting legacy in the schools involved in some way in the Get Set education programme.

A London 2012 spokesperson told Headteacher Update: “While it is not the London 2012 Organising Committee’s role to measure the legacy of the Games, we are confident through feedback from teachers, that the impact of the Games will continue to benefit young people in schools well beyond 2012.

“We have seen real creativity from teachers and students, and a commitment to continuing to use Games-related themes after 2012. In recent independent research, 81 per cent of teachers who have used the Get Set programme said they were very likely to continue to work with the values after the Games.”

St Breock Primary in Wadebridge, Cornwall, is one of the schools with firm plans to keep the Olympic excitement and participation going until well after the Games have ended.

“As a school we have really got into it,” sports coach James Ross explained. “We are now recognised not just locally or regionally, but nationally. At our school if you go for it, you go for it full steam ahead.”

The school has tackled several Get Set challenges, including the design a mascot competition. The school was the South West region winner. A red carpet event at the school followed in which the local community and business leaders were invited to the school to get a taste of their Olympic activity.

St Breock pupils have also designed an Olympic flame (pictured) which is currently on a relay tour of all of Cornwall’s primary, secondary and special schools before being exhibited at the Eden Project and finally going on permanent display in the county museum.

The memories of those activities will no doubt stay a long time with St Breock pupils, but the legacy will run even deeper than that, Mr Ross added.

“We have an ethos in the school that there is a sport out there for every child – they just need to find it. My headteacher Denise Gladwell challenged me to introduce 24 sports into the school apart from the usual fare of cricket, football and netball. This will hopefully lead to children finding a sport that they like and that they can develop in the future.”

The sports include the traditional Cornish pursuit of gig rowing, as well as bowls, rock climbing and fencing.

The school has incorporated Olympic values into its school promises and is now forging links with schools in Brazil, which will host the 2016 Games. There are also plans to invite some London 2012 medallists to visit the school. St Breock has already had visits from Games medallists including rowers Annie Vernon and Ed Coode and shooter Pinky Le Grelle.

Schools that have yet to engage with the Olympics can still take part, said Mr Ross. “The Olympics is what you make it at school and you have to do what you can to bring it alive.

“And that’s exactly what we have done here. If you do get involved in the Get Set project there are still so many exciting opportunities there for everyone to enjoy sport, embrace the Olympics and live the values.”

Getting involved in Get Set

It is not too late to get involved in the run-up to the Games. Forthcoming Get Set events include:

London 2012 World Sport Day on Monday, June 25. Thousands of schools across the UK will celebrate athletes and cultures from around the world. Schools are invited to host their own opening ceremony and profile the sports, languages, dance, music and food from any country they choose. A free event pack, containing bunting and branded materials, is available via Get Set.

Up to 100,000 London 2012 tickets will be distributed to children and young people in schools and colleges across the UK through the Get Set programme. Half will go to London schools and colleges and the rest to schools and colleges across the UK. An extra 75,000 tickets for young Londoners will be provided by the Mayor of London in partnership with the London 2012 Organising Committee. These will also be distributed through the Get Set network.

CAPTION: St Breock pupils with the Olympic flame they designed for a London 2012 competition

• Nick Bannister is an education writer and communications consultant.

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.

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