Winning tactic

Pupils use their brains as well as their feet at the David Beckham Academy. Crispin Andrews reports

Every football fan remembers the England versus Greece game in October 2001. With qualification for the World Cup on the line, a Beckham screamer nestles into the top right-hand corner in the 93rd minute. Old Trafford erupts.

Five and a half years later and Year 5s from various schools in Bromley, Kent, are reliving this moment on DVD during a visit to the David Beckham Academy, the football training centre for young players in Greenwich, south London.

More than 10,000 children have used the Academy's playing and learning facilities since they were opened by Beckham in 2005. These Bromley pupils are taking on the role of journalists and covering the match for a national newspaper. They compile a report, headlines, front page design and pictures for imaginary readers.

One pupil from Castlecombe Primary considers Beckham's own thoughts as he steps up to take the kick. "He knew everyone was relying on him and he had already missed a few, so there must have been loads of pressure," she says, scribbling down her idea.

The day is arranged as an inter-school competition between children from seven primaries, chosen by their local school sport partnership and each representing a leading World Cup nation.

For the "manager's challenge", pupils choose the best player for each position in their team, matching descriptions of the players' skills to the requirements of the roles. For the "scout's challenge", team members analyse player performance and learn about the tactics football clubs use.

The "physio's challenge", on one of the academy's indoor synthetic pitches, tests their knowledge of muscle groups and the human skeleton. "Sticking labels on the correct parts of a life-sized skeleton reinforces what we taught in science last year," says Kirsty Everson, a Year 4 teacher at St Peter and St Paul Roman Catholic Primary.

Each team member chooses one of six challenges and academy instructors teach aspects of literacy, numeracy, science, citizenship and leadership around a single theme - football and, of course, David Beckham. Points are totted up along with those gained in the afternoon's inter-school football matches.

But the day is not about winning. "Whatever their footballing ability and knowledge, we want all the children to contribute to the team's performance and benefit from the activities," says Ted Dale, the academy's head of coaching. "We also want more youngsters to take up sport and teachers to know what a fantastic learning vehicle sport can be."

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