What may appear, at first sight of the happy, smiling banana, to be a relatively lightweight educational resource soon reveals itself as a serious attempt to help schools initiate and sustain a successful, out-of-school club.
With the emphasis on healthy activity, and with great care being taken to ensure that clubs are run safely and successfully, the Happy Banana Club initiative is of its time on two fronts. First, it claims to respond to the National Association of Head Teacher's accusation that we are in danger of becoming a nation of couch potatoes (to be replaced by couch bananas presumably). Second, it supports the National Childcare Strategy whereby the government wants to see more than 1 million before- and after-school places created over the next five years.
The project comes with endorsements from the likes of Tony Banks, Victor Ubogu and Duaine Ladejo. It comprises A4 photocopiable worksheets, for both adults and children. There is also an A5 booklet of Tim Henman's guide to fitness.
As for the bananas? The pack is produced by the Banana Group, the promotional arm of the UK banana industry. This group is responsible for increasing the UK's banana consumption by 147 per cent over the past 15 years. Yes, there are many references to bananas; but no, it's not intrusive or subversive.
From the first sheet of the notes (aimed at headteachers) it becomes obvious that starting an out-of-school club is not simple. Where is your school now in terms of provision? What will the governors think? What about sources of funding? Consideration is given to topics such as budgets, legal requirements and staff pay. There is even a series of sample press releases, letters to parents and a staff cover plan. And the Action Plan could be a model for any school.
But what, you have to ask, for the children? The sheets aimed specifically at club activities are a starting point only. There are a few warming up exercises, ideas for possible games, activities related to food and nutrition and some useful addresses: not much to sustain a two-hour club, possibly meeting twice a week. Perhaps they should not have bothered with these pages.
Since the clubs are expected to run for years, and with their content and structure to be shaped largely by the participants, it would have been justifiable to provide just organisers' materials. A truly comprehensive manual could be hundreds of pages long.
This is an excellent teacher's resource. The key question of benefits to children will have to answered by the level of dedication provided by teachers . It falls to them to take advantage of the possibilities offered by a different arena in which adults and children can fulfil some of the potential denied them during the school day.
Graham Hart Primary schools should send an A4, 88p SAE to The Happy Banana Club, The Banana Group, Althorp Studios, 4 Althorp Road, London SW17 7ED