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Skipping and hopscotch are back.

Byline: By JENNY REES Western Mail

They say the old ones are the best. Now games your grandparents would have played are being reintroduced to Welsh school playgrounds. Rather than have bored school children aimlessly sitting in the yard, dinner ladies and teachers will get them skipping and playing hopscotch.

An initiative was launched yesterday to revolutionise break and lunch times by reducing bullying and boredom and increasing exercise and learning.

And though the games might be straightforward enough, staff found they had to teach the youngsters many of the skills needed, as some were unable even to turn a skipping rope.

Yvonne Hughes, Dragon Sport coordinator for Cardiff, said 'In many of the schools we've visited we've seen how poorly coordinated some of these kids are. We have had to teach them to turn a skipping rope, because they just don't skip today.'

'Usually they just wander round aimlessly,' said Bethan Frost, the PE and Schools Sport coordinator. 'So they like to create mischief or pick up the nearest stone and throw it, or kick a bottle. But this is far more structured.'

The pounds 20,000 Assembly Government initiative has allowed the pilot schools to split yards into zones of different activities, so that football no longer dominates and girls and non-football fans don't have to find a space around the pitch and twiddle their thumbs. Instead playgrounds will feature multi-sport zones as well as chill-out areas.

At Meadowlane Primary in St Mellons, Cardiff, youngsters now have skipping ropes, bean bags, space hoppers and a large parachute for team games, as well footballs and 'elastics'.

'A lot of the children have gone home and told their parents about the games they play,' said Mrs Hughes. 'That then jogged the parents' memories and so they told their children about games that were traditional in the past.

'That would normally have been passed on from generation to generation but it hasn't been because of the interest in computer games or a fear of letting children play on the street.'

Elaine Morgan, 84, Western Mail columnist and broadcaster, said games that were popular when she was a child in Hopkinstown Elementary included 'big ship sails' where a child would stretch their arm against a wall and twist under themselves, or 'grandmothers' footsteps' where the person 'on it' would try and catch other children as they crept up towards her.

'There never seemed to be a lack of things to do, like skipping and hopscotch,' she said. 'We had lots of songs for skipping that you could do solo or with a person at either end of the rope. Lots of children did tricks on roller skates, just as youngsters do on skateboards today.'

The initiative launched yesterday has already made a huge impact on the school in terms of improved behaviour, but the children are also having a lot more fun.

Ten-year-old Ashley Teague said, 'I've made lots more friends since doing this, the whole school is my friend now and no one fights any more.'

Bethan Ferrier, also 10, said, 'I really look forward to playtimes now.

'I didn't do many activities before, but now we do football and walk on stilts and play basketball or tennis.'

Leanne Rees teaches at Georgetown Primary in Tredegar, one of the five schools that has tried out the programme. 'All we were doing in playtimes and lunchtimes was dealing with squabbles,' she said.

'We had so many children on the yard that they were like caged animals and their behaviour was appalling.

'We found that children were getting into trouble because they didn't have anything to do.'

The school now splits playtimes so that fewer children are sharing the same small space and has introduced different activity zones and equipment, which has all had a remarkable effect.

'The difference is astonishing,' said Mrs Rees.

'They are too busy for problems now, it's just been incredible.': Burning off the calories:During 30 minutes skipping, an average 10-year-old, weighing 41kg (around 6st) would burn off 257 calories. Mary Sheppard, director of Fitness Wales, the governing body for exercise and fitness, said the more you weigh, the harder you work, and so the more calories you will burn off. So a lighter child would burn off fewer calories, and a heavier child would burn off more. As hopscotch is a less vigorous game, Ms Sheppard predicted an older child might burn up between 250 kcals per 30 minutes, or as much as 780 kcals for an adult weighing 136 kg (21 stone).
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 22, 2005
Words:756
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