9th June 2000 at 01:00
TOP TEAM. Channel 4 video. Available next month from 4 Learning, PO Box 100, Warwick CV34 6TZ. Video pound;12.99, teacher's guide pound;3.95

This video features three watchable, well produced15-minute programmes on physical education, each of which introduces two sports, for 7 to 11-year-olds.

At first glance, the starting point seems negative as the common thread is children's failure. The first programme introduces a girl who can't cope with being a goalkeeper in football and a boy who can't shoot in netball. Sadly, many children will be able to relate to them and are unlikely to benefit from the fantasy sequences in which top-class sports coaches and performers pass on tips to the youngsters. Yes, you've guessed it, back in reality they shine and their new-found success earns the admiration of their classmates.

The second programme provides two further recipes for overcoming failure, this time at table tennis and in the swimming pool. With sound teaching f basic techniques, the children are swiftly helped on the road to success.

The formula is repeated in the third programme when an inability to catch in cricket, and maintain a rally in tennis are cured with the help of sports celebrities.

While stars such as footballer Neville Southall and tennis player Annabelle Croft do their bit, it's the children of the featured Coventry school who are the superstars. They naturally provide a stimulus for discussion of all sorts of issues including gender bias, self-esteem, equal opportunities and inclusion. There's ample material for your next PE lesson, classroom discussion or circle time.

The message is simple: children don't discover basic skills, we must teach them. The teacher's guide is a useful source of ideas to help us do just that. Let your Year 5s and 6s watch the programmes and hear what they have to say. It will be illuminating.

Colin Lee is an educational consultant and inspector

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