Put your best foot forward

30th May 1997 at 01:00
ALIVE AND ACTIVE ACTIVITY FOLDER. Sports Day Guide Produced by PPP Healthcare Age range: 7-11

Vauxhall Motors recently announced it would be promoting car-sharing to help reduce pollution. Good for them, although the company's shareholders may think this is an odd policy. Similarly, those who have financial interests in the private health provider PPP Healthcare may be surprised to note this publication - which encourages children to lead an active and healthy lifestyle, reducing the need for expensive private health care later in life. Again, good for them.

The Alive and Active Activity Folder, available free to primary schools via a voucher scheme (see details below if you missed the opportunity first time round), is an unabashed piece of advertising. It also contains helpful advice for teachers who have the sometimes difficult job of persuading students sports can be fun, winning isn't everything and lettuce is exciting.

With style and vim the pack attacks the problem. It comprises a series of cards that act as both stimulus and practical work. Colour cards are for information; photocopiable, black and white cards are for practical exercises. The former are easy to read and provide a varied background to the topic. The latter involve students in a range of work from simple questions to small projects.

The content of each card is logged on a matrix, showing its place and purpose within the national curriculum. The cards are accompanied by a board game that looks good but is not that exciting to play.

Healthy and bright youngsters will probably find the pack interesting and inspiring. But it is easy to imagine the more cynical and lazy child in the classroom remaining unmoved, in every sense of the word. The converted are being preached at and there's little radical or challenging to appeal to anyone.

The reality of many modern schools - especially those in inner cities, with a wide variety of dietary regimes, poor resources and children who don't like sport - goes largely unacknowledged. No, we should not focus on problems, but we cannot ignore them.

Some teachers will recall the work of the formidable British canoeist Dave Ruse. He made it OK to climb trees, jump off park benches and chase around the city (and country) streets. Exercise and good fun went hand in hand for everybody. Through his rough-and-ready exploits children of all ages took to organised games and started to appreciate concepts such as teamwork, fair play and following rules. Alive and Active lacks this raw, real energy. Despite the colourful drawings and lively design, it is a little too earnest - the vision gets in the way of the fun.

The second publication, the Sports Day Guide, clearly comes from the same stable. Again, it aims to be helpful and practical. Again, it seems to operate in an ideal world. But then again, perhaps the hope that our children will grow up more healthy and fit is worth pursuing. There are some good ideas, but few teachers are likely to use the guide in the way it is intended. Most primary schools get by in a glorious jumble on their sports days, and this is often the best and only way.

It would be ungrateful to suggest PPP Healthcare sticks to what it knows best. After all, the pack is free and it promotes good health. But will it make a difference? Have a browse, put a copy in the library for children to discover and hope they make the connection between health and fun.

Copies available free of charge from Alive and Active, 11 Lakeside, Rochester, Kent ME2 2BR

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