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Rugby comes in from the cold in Russia
British sports teachers visit Russia to watch, join in and teach sporting skills
Picture of group in the snow
Snowy conditions in Samara

Picture of playing football on a frozen field
Playing football on a frozen field

Picture of cycling in the snow
Cycling in the snow

Picture of Russian students boxing
Russian students boxing

The temperature in the Samara Region, about 500 miles south east of Moscow, can fall to -40 degrees in winter. However, as a visiting sports delegation from schools in West Yorkshire discovered, this doesn't deter Russian school pupils from having PE lessons outside. 'They just pile on more clothes,' says Dave Tromans, Director of Sport at Knottingley High School and Sports College.

After an initial fact-finding visit in February to establish links with a variety of specialist sports schools in the area, the members of the sports delegation were in Russia at the invitation of the British Council and the Youth Sport Trust to observe how sport is taught there and to share ideas for best practice with Russian colleagues. 'We watched pupils being coached in basketball, volleyball, football, athletics and wrestling. At the end of many of the lessons we teachers joined in and played with pupils and their teachers. They couldn't wait to engage us in competition!'

In Russian specialist sports schools sport and PE are taught for up to five hours a week, twice the quota in Britain. Respect for discipline and the importance of good posture and muscle tone are evident, indeed posture and muscle conditioning are taught as a formal lesson. Russian sporting facilities are used to the utmost, with many schools operating a double seven-hour shift system, six days a week.

The visitors came back full of ideas for how they could exploit their own facilities to offer more opportunities for sport to all. As a result, Knottingley has already opened up its specialised PE facilities to local primary schools in the mornings and held the first of many projected sporting events bringing together 32 primary schools with local rugby clubs. And thanks to sponsorship raised from companies in the Knottingley area, a sports delegation from Samara will be visiting West Yorkshire for a week in the summer.

One area of common concern that teachers from east and west shared was the drop-off in sporting activity that takes place at 16. All agreed that they would like to see the enthusiasm that young pupils have for sports of all kinds develop into a lifelong learning interest. While the British party stressed the health aspect of physical activity, the Russians value sport's role as a deterrent to drugs and anti-social behaviour.

In return for all the demonstrations of sporting excellence they were treated to, the teachers from West Yorkshire introduced the Russians to a speciality of their own. 'We took out all the equipment for rugby, which we'd decided was a typical sport from our own region. We taught tag rugby in 15 schools and pupils of all ages enjoyed it tremendously - we left rugby balls for them to go on playing it.' Not being as used to the extreme cold as the Russians, the English teachers conducted rugby lessons indoors!

>> Languages in Russia case study

Link up with Russia

Have you thought about linking up with a school in Russia? It would provide your students with fascinating insights into another culture and also enrich the curriculum. Making a link is easier than you might think. Visit the Windows on the World website to see if any Russian schools have registered themselves as looking for a partner school. And if you can't find a partner immediately, then register your school and wait for someone to contact you!

If you are a teacher or headteacher in England, you can apply to go to Russia (as well as many other countries) to visit partner schools, identify potential links or share best practice. To find out about what's available visit our School Links and Partnerships with Russia page, or contact one of our offices in the UK.

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