Like most primary schools, Turnfurlong Junior School in Aylesbury is not blessed with state-of-the-art facilities or a plethora of sports specialist staff. Nor is it involved in a school sport co-ordinator partnership, a scheme which frees up teacher time and provides support from the local secondary PE department.
But Turnfurlong has been named "School of the Year for Sport" by the regional sports council. Key to this success has been the forging of links with sporting organisations. "Many teachers feel they lack the expertise and experience, not to mention the time, to take after-school sports clubs," says Turnfurlong's PE co-ordinator Ros Shorrocks. "We have involved outside experts so children don't miss out."
Over the past couple of years a number of community-based sports programmes have sprung up in the area. Organised and funded by national governing bodies, clubs or community groups themselves, the schemes have put coaches into schools to generate enthusiasm, raise skill levels and increase participation in sport.
Turnfurlong has enlisted the services of cricket, tennis, hockey, football and rugby coaches. Some children have even had a go at lacrosse and bowls.
"Not only does this help develop all-round physical literacy and competence, but variety means that more children are likely to discover a sport which they love and want to take part in for years to come," says Ros Shorrocks.
Turnfurlong participates in inter-school competitions, and on-site activity is seen as just the beginning of a child's journey into the world of sport.
Enthusiasm is sustained and developed outside, as children are encouraged to get active, join clubs and enrol on courses.
As well as the obvious health-related benefits, Ros has another reason for encouraging her children to take part in sport outside of school. "By contributing to the wellbeing of its community, a school can help prevent children developing a sense of isolation and detachment which can lead to antisocial behaviour. At the same time, sport is all about the development of interaction, social skills and mutual respect, and can help children deal with success and failure in a controlled way. Sport and schools together can really help communities become more cohesive."
Indicative of this is the school's participation in a Kwik Cricket league, organised by local clubs as part of a Cricket in the Community scheme.
After taster sessions in games lessons generated interest among Year 5 and 6 pupils, coaches took over school sessions, developing skills and introducing the rules and tactics necessary to take part in inter-school matches. All participants were then invited to join Aylesbury Cricket Club in the summer and talented children were invited to attend winter coaching courses. Last year, eight Turnfurlong children were chosen as part of the elite group and many boys and girls joined the junior sections at the local club.
Other schemes, such as a mini rugby world cup and hockey and tennis development programmes, have followed similar patterns. The school is applying for Awards for All funding to develop similar opportunities for its pupils to play table tennis and girls' football, and take part in gymnastics and dance.
A Cricket in the Community spokesperson explained why schemes of this sort tend to work so well at Turnfurlong. "A willingness on the part of a school to take ownership of an activity, to ensure groups are organised and prepared for sessions, and feel valued for their involvement and achievement, is essential if schemes like ours are to have the desired effect in generating enthusiasm and sustaining participation levels.
Someone at the school who is willing to act as a readily available link between coaches, clubs and the children is vital if success is to be generated."
As well as expanding the experiences and skills of pupils, these outside links have also benefited the teachers. In conjunction with outside experts, a Year 6 striking and fielding module, focusing on observation using ICT, performance analysis and skill application, has been developed.
While assisting in its delivery, teachers were able to use the expertise of coaches as a resource, especially in helping them to demonstrate techniques and observe faults.
Next year, Turnfurlong hopes to become part of the School Sports Co-ordinator programme, as plans are afoot to spread the programme to the rest of Aylesbury. Here they will be able to extend their extra-curricular provision further and enhance the quality of their PE curriculum.
Headteacher, Derek Hayward, admits that building a culture that values excellence and mass participation takes sustained interest and determination:"Even without specialist teachers and facilities, through negotiation and creative use of available resources, difficulties can be overcome, priorities re-assessed and school routines manipulated, to allow more activity to take place and sport to become a high profile part of school life."