Game on

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
Dave Bocking finds our what pupils at a Stockport school think of a new CD-Rom of playground games.

Grandmother's Footsteps, Hopscotch, Simon SaysI and What's the Time, Mr Wolf? - all are familiar phrases to most adults. But what about Fizz-Buzz, One-legged Rabbit and Catch, Don't Catch? Ask the children at Pownall Green Primary.

The playground of this Stockport school is a 21st-century testing ground for lunchtime behaviour-management techniques dating back hundreds of years. Pupils are rediscovering the playground games of their grandparents - not just from the UK, but from Asia, Africa and America. And they're learning to play these games, not by watching their older brothers and sisters, but by working through a CD-Rom in the school's IT suite. "Doing this by computer is the key, because to our kids, anything on a computer is cool," says the school's lunchtime supervisor, Lorraine Watkins.

Pownall Green is road (or rather playground) testing The Global Games Library CD-Rom developed by Leapwade International Training. After speaking to numerous headteachers, Leapwade director Terry Galvin came to the conclusion that "most behavioural problems come from bored children, not naughty children". He sees playground games as an important pressure-valve for children after a morning's work. But in these days of computers and consoles, children no longer learn to play traditional games.

It's a view shared by Pownall Green head Helen Ashcroft: "To me it's extraordinarily sad that children don't play games any more, and that we're losing part of our heritage."

Over the past year, Leapwade has sought out playground games from all over the world, and has now published the result as a Windows-based CD-Rom of 50 games suitable for key stages 1 and 2. Each game is described with simple diagrams, rules and variations. They are listed by type (ball, chasing, concentration, indoor, traditional) with information on country of origin, number of players, suitable ages and simple equipment needed - balls, beanbags, chalk and cones, for example, or often no equipment at all.

Making full use of the CD-Rom has meant extra training for lunchtime supervisors and the introduction of the playground friends scheme (Year 6 volunteers who keep their eye on their younger colleagues).

In the playground, a circle of 15 pupils are giggling and throwing a large foam ball at each other. Led by a Year 6 "playground friend" in her red cap, the children play Catch, Don't Catch, where they catch or drop the ball thrown to them by the "caller" after she's yelled out "Catch"! or "Don't catch!" If you catch or drop when you shouldn't you have to sit down. Vindictive callers can call out "change" during a game, at which point catchers have to do the opposite to the caller's command. Much hilarity ensues.

Around the playground, lunchtime supervisors and red-capped friends are leading children in the catch game and the other game of the week, Grandmother's Footsteps, aimed at the younger children. Everyone seems to be playing something and both staff and pupils agree that playtimes have been transformed.

"We used to get bored at lunchtime," says ten-year-old Joshua Nesbitt.

"We'd just sit on the bench with nothing to do. But now when you look round there's always several games going on."

Lorraine Watkins concurs. "The level of boredom is very, very low now. In the past we might get 40 per cent of the children wandering around being bored, or coming into the school saying they don't feel well. But now that's only happening with one or two children a day."

The co-ordinated approach has helped produce a climate where playground games can flourish, says Helen Ashcroft. "Playground behaviour has improved tremendously," she says. "There are fewer disputes, social skills have improved significantly, and I think there's been an improvement in the whole climate of the school."

A CD-Rom isn't quite the same as learning from grandmother in the back yard, but for some children it might just stop her footsteps disappearing forever.

The Global Games Library suitable for Windows with Internet Explorer and current versions of Microsoft Word. The package includes blank pages for new games.Leapwade pound;25 Tel: 01625

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