Child's play...


Last week, according to the local press, I 'waded into' the debate about tackling in youth rugby, 'dismissing' the views of doctors, academics and other experts. Just for the record, I didn't. I'd never be so arrogant. I just offered a comment on the issue, as requested! However, I do stand by what I said. Here's the article:

Press Cutting on Rugby
Somewhat ironically, the press contact came when, for the second time in two months, I'd been sent to Coventry...

Coventry Ricoh Stadium

This time it was for the annual Youth Sport Trust Conference. My seventeenth on the trot; and the first away from what had become its spiritual home at the Telford International Arena...

The venue may have changed but as in the past I've come away buzzing with ideas for. Last year, avid blog followers will recall how was energised by Kevin the 'Katalyst'...


This year - look out school - I've taken away three big ideas. On reflection, that may be an exaggeration. I've actually had three ideas reinforced, widened and deepened.

First, the critical - and ever-growing - importance of the relationship between physical activity and emotional well-being in the digital age. It's the challenge to increasingly sedentary behaviours which of course sits behind (deliberate irony!) our Active Movement programme at school. At the Conference world-leading Neuro-Scientist Baroness Susan Greenfield presented on her current research...

Susan Greenfield


Like all truly brilliant people, she made the most complex of issues seem crystal clear. An addiction to computer gaming within the context of virtual reality is 'vombifying' young people; the narrative that has previously shaped us as humans, rooted in real experience and emotions developed in natural environments is disappearing. We need to ensure that 'proper' child's play continues to provide the first chapter in a real and authentic story of young people's development as sensitive, caring, responsible and physically and emotionally healthy young adults...

Second, I received confirmation that Park House is to be one of 200 schools in the country selected to take part in 'Play Unified': a new programme developed by Special Olympics UK and the Youth Sport Trust aimed at changing perceptions of and attitudes towards young people with intellectual (learning) disabilities through sport in school and the local community. It's inspired by a simple principle: young people with and without learning disabilities training together and playing together is a quick path to understanding, acceptance and friendship, breaking down the barriers that exist for young people with a learning disability. Our students will be working in partnership with peers in Special Schools and the inclusive approach will focus on developing in all the participants those vital leadership skills that they need for life.

Tim Shriver

The programme was poignantly and powerfully introduced at the Conference by Tim Shriver, CEO of Special Olympics, and a nephew of JFK. That relationship is hugely significant. Tim's passion derives from his Kennedy family past.

Margaret Kennedy
Kennedy Shriver Family

Margaret Kennedy, his Aunt, was born with a learning disability and as uncles John, Bobby and Teddy sought the political spotlight so she was marginalised - then institutionalised - as a potential 'embarrassment' to the family's presidential ambitions. However, Eunice Kennedy Shriver her sister and Tim's mother was determined that she wouldn't be forgotten and in 1964 launched the Special Olympic Movement in recognition of her condition. Tim has carried this vision - and inclusive inspiration - forward...

Special Olympics

The programme - and our involvement in it - also has a special, personal  resonance as my own passion for teaching came from initially volunteering for Special Olympics events in a local school in Reading at weekends while - albeit briefly! - training as an accountant. The Head of PE, who ran the programme, as a result asked me to come in (completely unofficially, as you could get way with thirty years ago!) to help out in Athletics lessons at the school, and the rest is, literally, History...

Finally, and to come back to my introductory journalistic theme, I was interviewed at the Conference by Radio 4. The programme is incidentally due to go out on 21 March at 8pm and is focused on the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Legacy in schools. For me, and as I reflected in the interview, this is all about values-themed learning; across the curriculum and in terms of supporting young people's personal development.

And a brilliant opportunity to do so presented itself last Tuesday - International Women's Day.

Lisa Wainwright, CEO of Volleyball England, was with us for the day.

She's an inspiration. One of seven female leads on National Governing Bodies of Sport in the UK, she's a fantastic role model for the next generation: an England international Netballer as a school girl, she's gone on to be a leading sports administrator in another discipline, which is adopting a brilliantly proactive approach to providing placement opportunities for students in sports leadership as well as performance.

One generation literally inspired another as Lisa spent a fantastic morning with just some of our wonderful female athletes, leaders and role models...

Lisa Wainwright Volleyball England

It wasn't difficult to make the connection. Child's play!