When teachers at The Deanes School in Benfleet cleared the Year 8 timetable for two days of sport, they didn't neglect the rest of the curriculum. Although the two days are called Sports World, the aim is to promote all areas of the school curriculum.
This sports event has been running for a number of years but in its latest incarnation, the students have been made to think about more than just winning and keeping fit. Sports World is designated as curriculum enriching and is part of the school's response to the Government's key stage 3 national strategy.
Jason Carey, assistant head and joint organiser of the event, explains:
"Sports World is about how sport not only builds self-esteem and team skills but how it can also help students in the classroom. We wanted to link the idea that what happens in PE is going to have a special link with what happens in all the other subjects." The 180 students may think they are going to have an easy two days but with PowerPoint presentations, dance performances, orienteering, physiotherapy, science experiments, leadership and sports psychology sessions, it is an event that leaves little time for even the most restless of minds to stray.
Sports World provides an opportunity for the PE staff to work more closely with colleagues from other departments. At some schools this can be a big divide, but at The Deanes not only do the staff support the day, but they have also written schemes of work so that all parts of the curriculum link into it.
For geography teacher Lyn Thorogood, Sports World provides the opportunity to demonstrate the practical side of the subject: "We had to devise something that would incorporate teamwork, leadership and geography so we decided to do orienteering and an initiative test. Their geographic skills have been put to use in a realistic setting and they can see the purpose of what they are doing."
In the science sessions the students investigate the effects of various cooking methods on the vitamin content of food; in art they sketch representations of the dancers' movements and in RE they discuss role models and the traits required for great leadership.
Keli Hamstead, deputy director of PE and the event's co-organiser, believes that making use of the skills they already have is as important to students as learning new ones. "We are trying to develop their thinking skills and get them to appreciate that physical ability is not the only thing you need to be successful in sport. But the main point of today is to give the students experience with the key skills that they learn in all of their subjects," she says.
While students may focus on four main subjects on the day, in the run-up to Sports World all classes include elements related to sport and fitness. In English they produce booklets on healthy eating versus junk food, and the trophies were made in resistant materials technology lessons. In assemblies issues of leadership and motivation are covered.
Deanes has a well developed dance programme with an advanced skills teacher for dance and junior dance leaders teaching pupils in local primary schools. For Sports World, the dance leaders took a step up and helped their peers create their own routines. Jason Carey is convinced that the feel-good factor generated by Sports World will have long-lasting effects.
"As a tutor group they will bond and they will have greater enthusiasm and motivation for school life," he proclaims. "In addition to that, they'll have a greater love for the other subjects. They walk around with a smile on their face and feel like they've really achieved something."
The final word from the school goes to 13-year-old James Wright who says:
"It has been fun, exciting and challenging at the same time and the day has shown us how to be confident and concentrate more."
Last month, the minister for sport, Richard Caborn launched the new Youth Sport Trust scheme Living for Sport. The initiative is intended to "re-engage young people in school life through sport" - an area in which The Deanes School is already showing the way.
The Deanes School has a strong sporting heritage and the archery team are National School Archery champions for the third year running. One of the pupils is a national judo champion and a former pupil won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games last year. This year, the school opened a new indoor tennis centre which has been partly funded by the Lawn Tennis Association.