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British bulldogs hold their ground

Fads such as Pokemon may come and go but the nation's pupils have proved surprisingly loyal to games their parents used to play. Julie Henry reports.

KISS-chase and British bulldog have survived the influx of Pokemon, Popstars and Harry Potter in the playground, new research reveals.

Children's breaktime play is varied, rich and often subversive, according to Elizabeth Grugeon, a teacher-trainer at De Montfort University, Bedford.

And the complexity of games and creative use of language out of the classroom should act as a warning to teachers not to underestimate pupils when they are in it.

Ms Grugeon asked 70 trainee primary teachers from the university to record their observations of 15 minutes of playground activity at 55 schools in the East Midlands.

She discovered striking similarities between schools, with traditional playground pastimes coexisting with new, often media-inspired games.

Acting out Big Brother and the Popstars TV programmes were big favourites. Pokemon, Supermario, Digimon Digital Monsters and wrestling games were also popular.

But children also played tag, and older girls in particular enjoyed clapping and skipping games.

Traditional rhymes survive. Chants such as "A sailor went to sea, sea, sea..." were intermixed with songs about Josh and Jenny up a tree, doing things they shouldn't be.

At one rural village, children commandeered an activity wall, aimed at stimulating scientific discovery, and were using it as part of a Harry Potter role play. Ms Grugeon said: "The wall is designed to look like the workings of a machine but for the children, it was a source of magic. They used a blackboard connected to it to write their spells on."

Previous research at Keele University found games such as British bulldog and conkers had been banned by some safety-obsessed schools.

But Ms Grugeon said many games simply went underground and that children's play could be dynamic in any setting.

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