Top scores depend on determination;Subject of the week;Sport and PE

26th February 1999 at 00:00
Michael Prestage visits a primary held up as an example of best practice

Ask any successful athlete what it takes to succeed and "determination" will probably come fairly near the top. One primary school head believes that this does not just apply to an individual, it goes for a school, too.

Wendy Zaidi, head of Royce primary in Hulme, Manchester, believes physical education can play a vital part in primary education if only the determination to make time for it is there. She should know, because her school is now held up as an example of best practice in the subject.

She arrived at Royce as deputy head in 1985 after a spell as a peripatetic PE co-ordinator. "the subject was underdeveloped, but there was a lot of raw talent in the school," she says.

Since then Royce has won numerous plaudits for its delivery of the subject. The National Curriculum Working Party visited before producing its final draft for the national curriculum and the school featured in a video produced by SCAA.

Ms Zaidi believes in taking the lead and making time available to ensure there are no excuses from teachers to avoid taking lessons.

Every class teacher should be able to teach the range of subjects - gym, dance, outdoor games - with some degree of confidence. If they can't, the essential next step is to make sure support is available.

"There is a huge emphasis on literacy and numeracy, but my own view is that PE should also be a core subject. We are talking about the health of the nation here," she says. "We have all seen 11-year-olds who are couch potatoes."

One of the crucial ways of maintaining a child's interest in PE is to make sure the subject is enjoyable. At Royce, sport is open to all comers, regardless of ability.

While there is a programme of work for the year - another important aspect of delivering the subject successfully - children are not forced beyond their limitations.

Ms Zaidi says: "The children learn how to co-operate in a team activity, it encourages positive attitudes and provides sheer enjoyment."

In this inner-city school where 80 per cent receive free school meals, opportunities like making the video for SCAA, or appearing at a PE conference have boosted the self-esteem of the children.

Each class does a minimum of one lesson in gym, dance and outdoor games a week. There are also lunchtime and after-school sports clubs. The school taps other resources, such as the head of PE at the local high school, who gives basketball coaching sessions, or Olympic relay sprinter Paula Thomas, who has given a masterclass. Adidas, the sportswear company, was persuaded to provide basketball nets.

Ms Zaidi's simple rule regarding resources is that "if it's available and good for the children, I make sure we get it".

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