The buzz of enthusiastic children

11th June 2004 at 01:00
At Abercromby Primary in Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, about half of the 17 teachers get involved in extra-curricular activities for the school's 410 pupils, says depute headteacher Shena Mailer.

"I've been here for 30 years and we've always offered activities but we've a wider range now.

"Some staff are sporty; some are musical; some, unfortunately, have skills you just can't get kids interested in, like knitting and sewing.

"We're providing children with a wider experience and helping them develop skills that need nurturing. We have quite high levels of unemployment around here."

From the other end of the room come the tuneful, occasionally shrill, tones of recorders in the varyingly skilful hands of a small group of children.

Melissa Clark, a P6 pupil, admits it is not always easy to put in the hours of practice a musical instrument demands.

"I had never played anything before and I wanted to try something new. It was quite hard at first, especially reading the music, but I keep working at it. Even after two years I'm still learning new things."

ICT co-ordinator and class teacher Allison Smith runs the after-school recorder group and is also involved with after-school athletics, computing and drama projects.

"You have to set aside time for all that. It has to be juggled around teaching commitments and preparation. but it is worth it in so many ways," she says."I got to see the team come back from sports on Monday absolutely delighted at having retained the shield. You get to know the kids in a more relaxed way and develop relationships with a much wider group around the school. And you improve and develop yourself professionally."

The extra-curricular activities offered each year vary depending on the teachers' interests and availability. There is an established Scripture Union and a discussion and activity group called Seasons for Growth, which helps children deal with divorce or bereavement. French lessons are on offer. There are ball skills for infants and skiing for senior pupils, athletics, basketball, badminton and table tennis.

"This is fair play football laid on by the authority," explains Ms Mailer.

"It isn't a league, there's no referee, there have to be a certain number of girls in each team, and the kids sort out problems themselves. At the end they get awards for fair play.

"The aim is to develop skills - and we now have one or two very skilled girl footballers - while getting away from the old idea of school football with adults on the touchline yelling and screaming at their kids.

"For me, the great thing about extra-curricular activities is seeing and hearing the children afterwards. Having been challenged physically and mentally, they're so enthusiastic about what they have done. There is a real buzz about them, and that is what education is all about."

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