When I hear about the ‘legacy’ of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, I make a strange connection.
I see two middle aged deputy headteachers lurking in bushes on the fringes of an industrial estate.
Our school won a national award for health promotion. We were obviously delighted and, as for elite athletes, there followed predictable approbation and recognition.
When bidding for major sports events, the talk is generally of legacy; afterwards, the ‘L’ word fades somewhat, and it’s all about medals and success.
Glasgow, and Scotland, desperately needs a more substantial legacy from these Games. Our health is a major concern and there is no guarantee that the millions pumped into supporting elite athletes will have any lasting impact on people’s day to day health.
What we discovered was that changing a mindset was not a glamorous process; had such an unhealthy option been appropriate, the award would have been the icing on the cake.
Inevitably, for school or nation, the change comes about through hard work, planning, and providing resources. At governmental level, this translates into money and infrastructure: However, at school level, such demands are inevitably filled by personnel and additional effort. Put simply, our success came from the commitment of staff to drive the initiative forward – and most of that was voluntary and extracurricular.
Teachers worked with pupils and catering staff to plan menus; out went chips, in came a pasta and salad bar. Cross curricular collaboration meant PSE, English, PE, Art, Modern Studies, or Science lessons might feature healthy eating. Access to more after school sport was increased. Staff shared their own healthy pastimes with pupils – from rugby and running stars to those who hill walked or attended the gym. Pupils saw healthy living well modelled – and a few staff made lifestyle changes. To coin a phrase – we were all in it together!
We realized that pupils needed to be supported in changing attitudes and we asked all pupils to stay on campus during lunch. Happily there were few shops nearby and timetabling three sittings gave us the accommodation. This way, pupils were not tempted to eat unhealthily and the lack of fizzy drinks certainly affected afternoon classroom performance!
Generally, pupils and parents supported this decision – with greater and lesser levels of enthusiasm.
The one fly in the healthy ointment was a burger van on a local trading estate. It attracted a daily handful of our more dissident pupils and was rumoured to sell more than just greasy food.
So this was where the hard work was put in to support our healthy eating initiative, and how myself and a colleague frequently spent lunchtime in the bushes, surrounded by the whiff of fried food, leaping out occasionally to give fugitive pupils the healthy eating message.
It was a policy we followed with a light touch – it was based on cooperation, not enforcement after all, and frequently, as we walked the miscreants back to school, we would endure the torture of a cheeky: “Would you like a chip, sir?”
Ultimately, the threat of two auld yins in the bushes was as big a part of the initiative as the curriculum content and the work in dining room and gym.
So as you watch the shiny infrastructure take shape in Glasgow’s East End, fling a glance into the landscaping and give a thought for those who promote the legacy in more hidden ways!