Innovative Practice - Competitive spirit

Using world sporting events to inspire inter-school contests that promote positive attitudes to learning

The background

During his visits to schools in Kent, where he works for the local authority as a specialist teacher in behaviour, Jason Owen sensed excitement was building ahead of the Rugby World Cup. He decided to devise a scheme based on the tournament that would engage pupils with both their studies and sport. Mr Owen approached local schools in the Gravesham district and found seven primaries were keen to sign up to what became known as Project TRY (Tackle Responsibility Yourself).

The project

Pupils are encouraged to show a positive attitude at school, based on the core values of the rugby union code of conduct: teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship. During the course of the World Cup, they were assessed for their attitude in class and awarded points, based on the rugby scoring system: either seven (equivalent to a try and a conversion), five (a try), three (a penalty) or zero. The points were then added to the class total.

In some schools, a whole year group at key stage 1 and 2 participated. Classes in the different schools competed against each other and, at the end of each week of the tournament, a league table was produced showing which group had performed best. More than 500 youngsters took part. The most well-behaved were also rewarded - those who got four consecutive sets of full marks received a certificate and were inducted into the prestigious 28 Club.

A trophy was awarded to the overall winning class and participants had the chance to take part in training sessions with Gravesend Rugby Club. A football-based scheme, GOAL (Go On And Learn), has also been tried out and an Olympics-themed spin-off, Going for Gold, is being developed to run during the 2012 Games in London.

Tips from the scheme

- Keep it as simple as possible. Make the scoring system easy for teachers to cope with, so it doesn't create extra work for them.

- Encourage schools to display the league table, so other pupils, teachers and senior managers can see how the school is performing.

- Get local sports clubs involved to bring the project to life.

Evidence that it works?

Teachers have reported that their pupils are enthused by the scheme and classes are working more closely together in order to climb the league table. Organisers have also been approached by three more schools - Culverstone Green primary, and secondaries Northfleet Technology College and Swan Valley Community School. These late additions to the project have successfully tailored the approach to individual pupils who they were struggling to motivate for classes. The early results are encouraging.

The project

Approach: Schools use a major sporting event to motivate pupils through competition

Started: 2011

Leader: Jason Owen, a specialist teacher in behaviour working for Kent County Council

The school

Name: Chantry, Kings Farm, Meopham, St John's, Singlewell, Shorne and Wrotham Road primary schools

Location: Kent

Intake: Pupils predominantly have a white British background, but there are an increasing number from ethnic minorities. At secondary level, Kent has a selective grammar school system.

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