A London school claims they have almost eliminated bullying by banning unsupervised competitive games and sports at break times.
Instead of a traditional kickabout or game of stuck in the mud, the students at Hackney New School spend their supervised break times doing structured play activities such as practicing poetry, doing quizzes and playing chess.
The school claims there have only been five reports of bullying (including cyber bullying) and no permanent exclusions in the last year. They are confident that forgoing “unstructured play” is the reason. The head teacher, Charlotte Whelan said: “A school without bullying sounds like a utopia but it is achievable.”
The importance of exercise and fresh air is undeniable. Traditional break time activities allow for young people to get the benefits of being outdoors.
Charlotte Whelan is assured that the students are still getting what they need. She says: “The students, aged 11 to 16, are still taking exercise during breaks and PE lessons, but sports are “more structured” and supervised. Teachers there to make sure behaviour remains impeccable”.
Rather than kicking a football around or jumping skipping ropes in the playground unsupervised, pupils practise sonnets by classic poets like Shelley and Tennyson or quiz each other on capital cities, reports the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Ms Whelan added: “It’s long been my belief that we could be doing more for pupils while they are on their breaks, so often you see them aimlessly wandering the playground. We want every second at school to count”.
The school introduced poetry recitals during break and lunch and the students are responding well. They have memorised poems such as Ozymandias and The Charge of the Light Brigade and “recite them as they line up for lessons or when they are eating lunch”, Ms Whelan claims this would have been “unthinkable two years ago.”
“The school has been completely transformed and the students are really thriving”.
Charities Kidscape and Bullies Out believe that supervised activities can help isolated children.
Linda James, the founder and chief executive of Bullies Out, said “I always admire schools for trying new things to eliminate bullying …structured games, structured activities and different activities for different interests helps. That all works rather than having children wandering around aimlessly.”
Supervised structured play helps students to focus on a common goal and keeps their behaviour in check. Ms James added:”Unstructured games can sometimes lead to nasty comments, aggressive behaviour or children feeling left out”.
Kidscape CEO, Lauren Seager-Smith, believes schools are responsible for creating safe spaces for children during lunch and break times. Supervised activities can help them “feel supported and included” – which is what we want for all children.
Hackney New is part of the Community Schools Trust, which also runs The Cumberland School in Newham, where students won £1m of scholarships to top fee paying schools this year. The prestigious colleges programme is due to be rolled out at Hackney New School next year.
Mrs Whelan added: “We are working alongside exceptional leaders who are creating life changing opportunities for students at this school and others.”
Banning unsupervised competitive games seems to be working brilliantly for Hackney New School, could it work for yours?
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