Football clubs score in schools

21st September 2001 at 01:00
READY TO LEARN Resource pack with video. Rangers Football Club

YOUTH AGAINST BIGOTRY. Resource pack. Celtic Football Club.

Both sent free by Glasgow City Council to its own schools.Master copies available for other authorities. For more on the packs, or other football links with education, contact George Mackie, Glasgow City Council, tel 0141 287 8341

Sporting heroes are helping to motivate primary children in the classroom in unexpected ways, reports Douglas Blane.

As long ago as 150 years, Charles Dickens was pointing out that children need to be amused and can't always be learning and working: "They an't made for it." The two are not mutually exclusive and the best contexts for acquiring knowledge and skills are those in which pupils are enjoying themselves.

Children enjoy sport and it seems that no sport generates more interest and excitement than football. Which means no sport has more potential to motivate learning - for boys and girls.

George Mackie, Glasgow City's schools industry liaison officer, says:

"Imagine the different reactions a teacher would get if she told the class they were going to study geography, compared to saying 'The Rangers team has players from all over Europe. Let's take a look at where they were born'."

This is one of the activities in the Ready to Learn resource pack produced by Rangers FC and distributed by Glasgow City Council to all its primary schools. After a two-year pilot, the pack is being reviewed, taking account of feedback from teachers, to prepare it for release within the month.

The pack contains stimulus materials in a variety of subjects. In English, pupils can hone their reporting skills by composing a match report, or improve their imaginative writing by describing their greatest game, from the point of view of the ball. In maths, fixture lists, stadium dimensions and supporters' catalogues can motivate number work. In art, projects range from sketching fans' facial expressions to designing a football strip. In technology they include designing and making a wheelchair ramp, a flicker book or even a moving football player. Aspects of fitness, health and diet are discussed and pupils can develop their investigative skills by answering questions about a famous international match between Scotland and England and then finding out what other events took place that year.

It might be expected that an educational resource produced by one football club would encounter resistance from supporters of a rival team. But this does not need to be a problem, explains Andrea Watt, Primary 6 teacher at Lorne Street Primary in Glasgow. "In fact it makes a good talking point and if you discuss it thoroughly with the children beforehand they all respond well to the activities."

Perhaps the ideal approach - adopted in a number of schools - is to use the Rangers pack in conjunction with an educational pack produced by Celtic FC, entitled Youth Against Bigotry. This features activities in personal and social education, religious and moral education, English and art which are designed to encourage primary and secondary children to examine their own attitudes and to raise their awareness of bigotry in all its manifestations of prejudice.

The pack exemplifies the enlightened attitude it tries to promote by praising the educational efforts of Celtic's rivals.

The two football clubs' resources complement each other, with both packs motivating learning in a variety of contexts.

At Richmond Park Primary, where pupils with physical special needs attend from all over Glasgow, teacher Craig Falconer is very positive about the use of the packs and the motivating effects of sport on children's learning. "I use both packs and try to link them together, so there isn't a problem with children who support one team or the other," he says.

The educational efforts of Glasgow's football clubs are not confined to the two most successful. Mr Mackie says: "All four of them - Celtic, Rangers, Partick Thistle and Queen's Park - sit down with us and talk about what we can do together. Throughout the season they show parties of schoolchildren around their grounds and invite them to matches. They run competitions to design match programmes and video-box sleeves and they organise sports journalism projects for schools.

"Seeing the football teams working together in this way helps to break down the barriers and motivates the children."

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