The primary school hooked on climbing

Posted by Jonathan Garside on 05/02/2014
Molly passing on her wisdom

BMC ambassador Molly Thompson-Smith has joined in the climbing revolution at Berrymede Junior School in Acton, London. PE Teacher Steve Cotton outlines how climbing has become a big part of school life in just five months.

Where did it all begin for the Junior School? 
Berrymede wanted to utilise the space they had and expand the PE curriculum and allow it to be accessed at playtimes and lunch times.  So using some of the schools Sport Premium funding they started the project to give children a totally unique experience and a peek into the world of climbing and bouldering. 

So what has Berrymede achieved over the last five months?
There is now a 13m traversing wall in their year 5 & 6 playground and a 17m traversing wall in their year 3 & 4 playground.  Both of these walls have been professionally route set by the setters from the Westway Climbing Centre.  This has resulted in the children having a good progression of levels and variety of holds to learn the FUNdamental movements of climbing.  The hardest level is a V1, or the ‘infamous green holds’ to the children. 

The relationship with the Westway has developed, enabling the school to take a small group of children to the centre climbing and bouldering.  Pupils have just competed in the first round of the Westway bouldering series, resulting in two children placing in the top 3 for the 9 and under age group. 

It was at this competition that PE teacher Steve Cotton met Molly and her father Tony. Steve asked if Molly would be interested in visiting the school to help the children, which she was more than happy to do.

With her mock GCSEs over, Molly headed over to Berrymede to do her first whole school assembly as part of her BMC ambassador role. Whilst admitting she was more nervous in doing an assembly than climbing, she proved a natural, with the children and staff hanging on her every word. 

After assembly Molly tackled the schools traversing walls, the videos of which will be used as a teaching aid for the children. She survived playtime, helping the year 3 & 4 children, who all wanted to have her coach them and to see her climb. 

WATCH: The benefits of climbing walls at schools on BMC TV

Head teacher Mrs Khan saw great benefit for the children in Molly's visit, “In having Molly come into the school it was evident that the children related to her immediately, she was someone who had started climbing at their age and moreover she is a local girl!  Molly has an excellent manner with the children and has left a legacy of what can be achieved if you make a commitment and work hard towards your goal.” 

Molly helped take a lesson on the traversing wall with a very lucky year 3 class.  Her hardest part of the day was trying to match some of the children who climbed backwards on the traversing walls but she gave it a go with her usual gusto.  As well as the children, Molly had a great day too, "I was grateful to have the opportunity to give something back, I really enjoyed my day!"

Steve Cotton thought the day a great success, and sees many benefits from climbing for the children.

“Having the traversing walls has allowed the children to know their climbing level and practice in their own time. This has driven them on to develop self-motivation skills and solve problems that they thought were not possible.  It allows me to assess the children on a variety of skills and techniques, FUNdamental movements, climbing routes achieved and progress made over the year."

"The fact that the children know they will be assessed drives them on to be active during break and lunchtimes,  which is something we certainly need in today’s modern culture where children are adopting a more sedentary lifestyle.  I think that this has been easier to set up than most people would imagine and now pupils are more engaged and have had their eyes opened to what the world has to offer.”

Developing links with the Westway has enabled the keenest children to take their climbing further, as highlighted by Westway Climbing Manager Matt Tomlinson, "Working with Steve we were able to write a syllabus that centred on bouldering that could be delivered partly at the Westway and partly at the Schools traverse walls."

"The Westway are always looking to build partnerships with local schools to offer subsidised sessions to give children sporting opportunities that wouldn’t normally be available to them.  Indoor climbing is a sport that most inner city London children do not get the chance to try."

Wendy Taylor from the Youth Sports Trust visited the school and was very imporessed with the developments they have made, “Berrymede Junior School has developed an exciting partnership with the Westway and the BMC.  Through this partnership, young people are able to access rock climbing and bouldering opportunities that wouldn’t ordinarily be accessible to them."

"This is having a direct impact on the breadth of the school’s curriculum offer and the level of personal challenge set within lessons.  Additionally the facility provides a much used opportunity for all young people to be more physically active during the school day.  I look forward to hearing further about the impact of this exciting development.”

If your school is keen to emulate Berrymeade's success, then we can support you along the way with a host of training opportunities and publications. 



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