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'Man City have helped pupils feel safe and valued'

18 Aug 2020
Cheetham Primary, We Are One Team

The head of Cheetham Community Academy explains how City in the Community have kept pupils engaged and active throughout the pandemic

Keeping primary school children engaged and active can be difficult normally, but it has been particularly challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cheetham Community Academy in Manchester has 690 pupils, many of them coming from low-income families where homes can be overcrowded.

"We are in an area where there are high levels of deprivation," says head teacher Karen Carter. "The impact of the pandemic has been really worrying. 

"There are a lot of households that have really struggled to feed their families, they have had a very difficult time. For some families income has stopped completely."

For the last four years, Manchester City's City in the Community (CitC) has been delivering Premier League Primary Stars at Cheetham throughout the year.

Remote learning

And during the lockdown as a result of the pandemic, they have stepped in to help by delivering those sessions remotely.

"The challenge is to keep the children physically active," says Carter. "To be able to do that in a small space, with several children, that's important.

"The children are in such a very different place during lockdown. The more normality we could bring, the better.

"Just seeing the coach as part of their day-to-day learning, it's had a big impact on the children."

Cheetham Academy is one of 88 primary schools that have been supported during lockdown by CitC, who have provided remote assistance and sent activity cards and resources to schools and their families.

"“The coach, who has come in every day working with the children, has just done an amazing job at inspiring them.”"

Cheetham Community Academy's head teacher Karen Carter

And when Cheetham Academy and 13 other primary schools started to welcome children back through their doors, CitC were there to support the re-introduction into school with an adapted, socially distanced football curriculum.

"That transition period is a delicate one because the children have had very different experiences of lockdown," says Carter. "How we received and engaged them when they came back was really important.

"The coach has come in every day and has done an amazing job at inspiring the children.

"Even with social-distancing, they're working together. They're happy. It's really added structure and helped to get them engaged.

"The things that City do to boost our children's confidence and make them feel valued, that's the important thing for me."

Getting creative

The sessions delivered by CitC at home and in school gave children the chance to use their imagination when thinking about PE.

"Each class bubble had different levels of ability which we addressed in our programme and we also used this as an opportunity to show teachers how simple safety measures for social-distancing could be enforced whilst keeping children active," said CitC coach Stuart Jones.

"Cheetham did not allow the use of footballs during the lessons, so the challenge was to find different ways to keep the children invested in the lessons each day.

"We're delighted that our joint efforts with the school encouraged children to be creative in how they stayed active during lockdown, and by the end of the term we saw a new enthusiasm in children who were practising exercising at home ready for PE."

Player messages

Although the last few months have been disruptive for all pupils, it has been especially difficult for Year 6 students, who have had to forego their usual celebrations marking the end of their primary school education.

To give the final-year children at Cheetham something positive to remember, Man City players Kyle Walker and Ellen White both recorded messages for the school's virtual leavers assembly this week.

"We have an extremely good working relationship with City and at a time such as this, that has really been evident," Carter says. "I would like to say thank you to City for helping our children come back to school and feel safe, valued and having fun."

More lockdown stories

See: Coronavirus, clubs and community

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