What is the legacy of the Paralympics? Damon Rose spoke to a primary school teacher in East Anglia who used the Games to inspire his pupils and get them thinking and working differently with each other.
Ryan Hunn is a teacher in year four at Morland Primary School in Ipswich.
“I spent two afternoons last week talking about Paralympics and looking at the successes of the athletes. The children have been mentioning Ellie Simmonds and David Weir, and there was a real buzz around it.
“I had a thought I wanted to do something for the Paralympics at the school, a team building exercise. I had an idea that I might restrict them from using one side of their body, or get them to only use their feet or something like that.”
Then, says Mr Hunn, one morning some of the boys started talking about the blind football they’d seen on TV the night before. He mentioned it to the school’s PE coordinator, who produced a ball with a bell inside that had been bought on another occasion. They also had some blindfolds, and a game of blind football sprang to life.
“We played five-a-side for safety reasons and, because we only had a small number of blindfolds, we used jumpers for those who didn’t have them,” he says.
The Rules Blind football is usually played by visually impaired footballers. Each player wears a blindfold to ensure that those with a little sight don’t have an advantage. The goalkeepers are sighted and shout instructions to the players. When it’s time to score a goal or a penalty, a sighted “guide” stands behind the goal giving instructions and banging the goal posts so the player can aim his or her kick more accurately. Spectators must remain silent so the players can hear the ball.
So how did the eight-year-olds of Morland Primary do?
“It was really interesting seeing them using different senses they don’t usually use. Limiting their sight made them use their hearing, and it was fascinating and enjoyable to watch. It went far better than I expected it would.
“I was impressed at how well they adapted to not having their sight. They were surprisingly adept and there were no major incidents. The ball bounced off the floor once into a child’s stomach, but she picked herself up again and started playing five minutes later.”
The point of the blind football exercise, interestingly, is not to teach children about disability. Mr Hunn says the sport may have other benefits – there are some social issues locally, and blind football shows you can achieve goals by working together.
“The whole field was in silence – and it’s not often you see a whole class in silence – yet they were doing something very proactive.”
And the game brought more equality in the class. The boys tend to be the ones who play football, whereas the girls tend to do dance routines or chat in the playground. Not being able to see while playing changed that dynamic.
“When it comes to PE lessons, it’s nice to have a level playing field where boys aren’t so dominant and girls can access something that they wouldn’t necessarily feel so passionate about.”
After hearing about the success of the game, other classes in the school have played it too. And Mr Hunn is looking into running a lunchtime blind football club.
“We hope to get those children who aren’t always active or into sport doing things they didn’t realise they could do.”
By Damon Rose