Children doing Haka

The Games – it's fantastic!

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Sport, school, cross-curriculum – a fantastic morning

Richard Witham, our Sports Mission Leader, talks about a brilliant KS2 event exploring Christian faith and having loads of fun

Over the past few years I have run Scripture Union’s The Games programme in a range of different primary schools across several counties. In each school it has been really well received by both the staff and pupils as it covers a number of curriculum subjects as well as being both great fun and engaging for all pupils.

For the most part I have tied it into a global sporting event that is taking place such as the football or rugby World Cups or the Olympics/Commonwealth Games. These events capture the imagination of all involved and provide a platform around which you structure the programme. They often run for a morning in the second half of the summer term when schools tend to be more relaxed and are looking for innovative 'off-timetable' ideas which can run on site without causing stress to teachers.

The format is quite straight forward – pupils are divided into groups of around 15, and named after participating countries of the event. In these countries they attend an opening and a closing ceremony (assemblies) and, between times, rotate around three zones: Discovery, Creative and Sporting, each lasting around 30 minutes. The opening ceremony welcomes the countries, lights a 'torch' and introduces what will happen. The closing ceremony is a celebration which can include photos of the morning, reflections from the zones and, of course, the award of medals to a winning country.

The zones replicate the essence of the tournaments where the sporting contests are matched by an emphasis on values and a cultural celebration of the arts. The Discovery Zone is the place where the values are explored and where I introduce a Bible story such as David and Goliath, looking at how the underdog triumphs against giant opposition or Joseph getting his training right so he can perform at peak level when the time comes. The Creative Zone is a place to explore the country that is being represented or do some music or craft such as a friendship bracelet in the colours of the country.

The Sporting Zone is obviously a key area and my experience suggests this works best when it is a range of mini games such as relays that involve all children and where they are not directly competing against each other but seeing how many laps, jumps, throws etc they can achieve in a given time. The resource pack contains a host of excellent ideas. Each country keeps a record of its scores in the various challenges and winners medals are awarded to the highest scoring team – with the leader awarding bonus points for good sportsmanship and encouragement.

The resources required are quite simple and inexpensive – the school can provide most of what is needed – the batons for each country and their flags plus any craft resources are all that is needed. It also works with a relatively small number of volunteers – one leader for each zone and one per country (though teachers can also be used).

The highlight for the schools (apart from seeing pupils do PE, music, DT, RE and PHSE without noticing) is often within the interaction among the groups. I have always insisted these are a balance of genders and across the age range of those taking part and it is lovely to see the older pupils helping out and supporting the younger ones. It is also an opportunity for those pupils to shine who may not be the most academic – the opportunities in the Creative and Sporting Zones in particular are well suited to those who can struggle to focus in a classroom.

I would not suggest The Games should be the first thing that a church should look to do in its local primary school – it is probably wiser to build up a relationship and trust before taking over the whole school for a whole morning – but it is a wonderful way to enhance that church/school relationship and will be a memorable experience for all involved – for the right reasons, I trust!.

Richard Witham, Sports Mission Leader


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