Words like legacy are thrown around a lot when people talk about international sporting competitions. Fifa and the reputation of the World Cup have suffered from accusations that the tournament is simply a money spinner, tainted by claims of corruption and by the reality of the lives people live in places like South Africa when the world’s spotlight moves on.
The question asked is what effect these events have, and what it will mean for the future. Glasgow 2014, beginning in weeks, has sought to capitalise on the Games so that the benefits are felt across society – and not least in education.
Game on Scotland – the education programme aiming to use the Games as a hook to engage children in the new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), was launched in May last year after being jointly developed by Education Scotland, the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council.
The idea is to support teachers in delivering CfE by providing ideas and using the Games as a means of inspiring learning.
Steven Kidd, Education Programme Manager for the programme, says: “We are not trying to teach people about the Commonwealth Games specifically – instead what we are trying to say is that there is this really exciting, fabulous event that will be happening on our doorstep in a very short period of time and there are lots of opportunities for you to use across the whole curriculum – not just in sport.
“We have seen that borne out through use of the programme. It is predominantly delivered through the Game on Scotland website – we have a range of information, resources and opportunities that are all available through that site. Anyone who wants to can go on and benefit from it whether they are educators or not – there is no password protection or anything like that.”
The material provided spans across every curricular area, containing ‘learning journeys’ – essentially, CfE-approved lesson plans – for teachers to access, use and tweak for teaching.
Kidd says: “The resources are not prescriptive – they provide learning ideas rather than just worksheets. There are learning journeys there that cover every curricular stage and they have been downloaded tens of thousands of times – usage of the site has gone through the roof in the last month in particular.”
There is some precedent for the scheme in the 2012 Olympics, which also had an education programme, though it was based on the English curriculum. Kidd says that the aim is to make the programme sustainable, which is why it was so important to work alongside Education Scotland to get their input and link it to the official curriculum.
“One of the great things about the CfE is that it is very flexible, so although we are predominantly there for the Scottish education audience, we have very high levels of participation from elsewhere in the UK and indeed beyond, because it is easy to transfer those materials – they are not prescriptive, they do not talk about ‘key stages’, like English ones do. It is a much more flexible process. The Game on Challenge has 20 different nations from across the Commonwealth taking part and posting their challenges.”
Feedback from teachers has been positive – though because of the flexible approach taken by the architects of the programme, different schools have used different aspects of the material.
Fiona Sullivan teaches PE at St Mungo’s Academy in the east end of Glasgow and when the Games arrive the school will sit in the eye of the storm. She believes that the main benefit to learning came from engaging more with the local community, including with nine other schools.
She says: “The pupils loved it – as soon as the Games were announced, we knew we had to get involved, with it right on our doorstep. Linking all the schools up helped make a real community spirit – obviously kids at this school also have younger brothers and sisters at other ones and this meant they were talking about it at home and got everyone talking about it. I think if we hadn’t engaged with it across the East End, there would have been a danger it just would have passed all our pupils by. Now they feel really involved in it – they have done some fantastic projects and hopefully it should boost their confidence, their communication skills.
“We have been involved in Inspire Aspire, which is a global citizenship project where pupils go away and research a role model – an athlete or an inspirational figure from the Commonwealth like Nelson Mandela. They look at their role model’s personal qualities and then make a big poster to show how you could be inspired to take on the personal qualities that their role model has. It helped them think about themselves and how they can develop as people. We also made a film welcoming the Commonwealth to the east end of Glasgow and, because each school had a different country, each made it specific to them and in their language. We went out to the East End and to the landmarks to make the pupils aware of why the Games were coming and to make them proud of the area, to boost their confidence in where they live.”
Danielle McIntyre is Principal Teacher at Galston Primary School in East Ayrshire. Her school has won an athlete visit and, equally exciting, a chance to meet Glasgow 2014’s mascot - Clyde. Her priority is for the school to continue to benefit from the sort of activities that have been going on even after the Games finish.
“Our main aim is to involve children in sport and to keep them as active as possible – to give them taster sessions and involve local communities and businesses. I haven’t had to pay for a single visit in three years – they have all volunteered to give their time. One person we have had every year is Aileen Neilson, who just won the Paralympic bronze medal in Sochi for curling and it is really inspirational – especially for the kids with additional support needs.
“A lot of the resources would be really valuable in the future. The website gives information on each country – what it is famous for, its imports and its exports. Also we would be really keen to keep using the health section, the information on diet and how to have a healthy and active lifestyle, we would be really keen to use going forward.”
So the questions remain over what will be left when the crowds leave, the cheers die down and the equipment is packed away. The Game on Scotland website has had positive feedback and it would seem a shame for this to be lost. But after the closing ceremony it will need to adapt.
Kidd says: “I think there is a recognition that the 2016 Olympics will be exciting for people in Rio but they may not be as big an event for Scottish schools as the Commonwealth Games. But then because we have gone down the route of using the Games as a context – rather than just teaching them about the Commonwealth Games – means that we have resources for science that look at aerodynamics in cycling, for example. At the moment, those are all collected under the Game on Scotland banner so part of the process will be looking at how those resources can be disaggregated so that they can be used by different subjects.”
He continues: “As far as the legacy goes, all of the intellectual property of the material will be passed on to Education Scotland so it will not be lost by the learning community. At the moment, we are looking to find the best way to make an impact going forward, when we don’t have the massive hook of a multi-sport event on our doorstep. But there are materials and information available on the site that mean we can do a lot post Games to capitalise on the feeling after the event. So athletes’ visits, for example, those will likely continue on beyond the Games as well and by then we will hopefully be talking about some successful Team Scotland athletes going into schools with medals to show off and stories to tell.”
The site is important, but equally key will be maintaining the links between schools that the celebration has triggered.
Sullivan says: “The whole learning community has come together and we really hope that will be the legacy – we have done so much together this last year and we really want to keep it going – the community spirit and through sport. Hopefully next year, we can have a look and decide what subjects will be able to look at which subjects can study the impact that the Games have had on the East End – and that could span the next couple of years as things develop. We have a health course so the hope is that the Games will inspire activity and we can keep it up.”