Safe way to learn the ropes

27th June 2003 at 01:00
David Bocking meets the Rotherham teachers who have produced their own resource packs to support primary gymnastics

Gymnastics plans Late Foundation to Key Stage 1 pound;40 Key Stage 2 Gymnastics: the Complete Scheme pound;60 (pound;85 for both titles) Rabbit Design Tel: 01226 234621 Email:

With as little as four or five hours of PE training, it's no surprise that many primary teachers feel out of their depth when it comes to teaching gymnastics.

After such limited instruction, the temptation to resort to tree poses when faced with teaching this technical and demanding activity is understandable. Teachers in Rotherham, together with an educational sports consultant, have recognised the problem and produced two gymnastics packs to support teaching the sport.

The packs - Late Foundation to Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 Gymnastics: the Complete Scheme - have developed over the past three years. The product is the result of a collaboration between staff at Rawmarsh School, one of the country's first sports colleges, Sharon Robinson, a former PE teacher and PE teachers from 32 primary schools.

Dave Sutton, deputy head at Rawmarsh, had noticed that pupils were arriving in Year 7 with vastly different levels of expertise. He says: "We could tell which school a youngster had come from after a week. Some schools had better gym facilities than others and some had staff who are strong on gymnastics, some on football."

The hope is that after following the lesson plans, children from the Rawmarsh feeder primaries will arrive, as Dave puts it, "on a level playing field". After discussions, initially with nine feeder primaries, a set of lesson plans were drawn up and tested. Sharon Robinson developed the original ideas into a series of simple-to-follow gymnastics plans for children from late foundation to Year 6. "There's a progression from lesson to lesson," she says. "So it's motivating for children. It's not predictable, so they feel challenged."

The scheme comprises 16 lesson plans for every year group, each of which includes activities for warm up, development, composition and cool down.

Learning objectives are noted for each plan, split into the national curriculum headings of acquiring and developing, selecting and applying, improving and evaluating and knowledge of fitness and health.

Notes for teachers are included in each plan, together with diagrams where appropriate. And for each unit of 16 lessons, links are made to other areas of the national curriculum, especially literacy and numeracy.

Dave Sutton says: "It's taken us a long time, but we wanted to make sure we had covered all the national curriculum requirements and cross curricular elements. In some smaller schools, the PE co-ordinator could also be the ICT and literacy co-ordinator, so we had to revise the materials to make sure the language wasn't too technical for non-specialists. We wanted it to be possible for teachers to just pick the book up and deliver."

Sue Cooper, partnership development manager at Rawmarsh, says the packs are already having an impact. "The feedback I'm getting about the gymnastics pack is that the teacher feels more confident, and so there are higher expectations, better performances and more enjoyment."

The school has formed a company (RCS) to market the gymnastics plans, now published in a booklet produced by educational designers Rabbit Design. It is the first in a series which will soon extend to dance and games in the autumn and possibly swimming and outdoor activities later.

RCS is also offering professional development seminars to help teachers get the most out of the packs.

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