School Games in lockdown and beyond

Reshaping physical activity for schools during coronavirus.

James Jeffrey

16 Jul 2020

Children playing football outdoors.

During this strange time, I felt a sense of responsibility to guide people through unknown territory, as lockdown changed the physical activity landscape immediately. Both personally, and as a School Games Organiser (SGO), I wanted to be proactive and implement something that had an impact. 


The School Games aims to keep competitive sport at the heart of schools, while providing more young people with the opportunity to compete and achieve their personal best. As an SGO, my role is to work with my district to deliver a calendar of events and activities that create an impact for children and their school, and which benefit the county. 


The transition to delivering the School Games under lockdown was sudden, and decisions had to be made quickly, either by myself or by others. It was intense at times, with so many new directions being proposed! However, the structure of how we delivered the School Games through tradtional activity, such as archery and running, changed, and I felt as if we were given an artistic license to explore what we determine as physical activity.


Lockdown provided so many children with a creative change and an opportunity to walk and cycle to areas they wouldn’t usually go to. It provided a chance for them to explore online resources, complete skills-based activities, develop different techniques and set personal challenges, and participate in nationally celebrated approaches to fitness and wellbeing, such as Joe Wicks’ PE lessons.


As lockdown went on, we were able to create a greater picture of what the School Games should be during this time and what impact they should have. As SGO’s, we soon realised that clear structure was key and we needed to help paint the picture of what people could do to be active.


Exploring new terrain


While we wanted to create a positive outlet for the children, we were also aware of the anxiety surrounding the current environment and the impact this had on physical and mental wellbeing. Whatever our approach was, we wanted it to be enjoyable, sustainable and engage people of all abilities, interests, confidence, and competence. The Tweedy campaign captured all these elements as the children could be challenged and interpret the activity for themselves.


Post-Tweedy it became clear that a school-based style of physical activity was sought after, as we started to see more and more people express the desire to return to some form of normality. That's why we designed the virtual Gloucestershire School Games challenges, to bring multiple skills together and enable the children to learn and participate together. 


As SGO’s we are committed to providing activity that engages children of all abilities, and we had to consider this when developing our online activities. We wanted to devise an approach that promoted physical activity, while helping the children to develop their self-esteem, enjoy activity and ultimately find reward in their participation.



Adapting to lockdown


Lockdown changed my role, and at times I felt powerless. The usual structure of the School Games was gone and goals seemed harder to achieve. While before I was able to see the impact of the work we were doing, we didn’t know whether the activities we were putting out there would have an impact or whether it would increase participation.


However, during this time I became heavily involved in social media and I learned new skills to make this process as effective as possible. It was hugely educational and challenging and enabled me to collaborate with Active Gloucestershire and we can move and work together in a new environment. I enjoyed learning new skills such as video producing, while communicating with Active Gloucestershire, we can move and BBC Radio Gloucestershire to develop a greater impact.


I had to become more open minded, flexible and understanding of different roles and it was a great benefit to be part of a team. I felt that we were working beside each other and for each other, enjoying our contributions towards a successful campaign while learning from one another.


Looking to the future


While we will never know truly how many children have participated in our lockdown activities, we can see what impact we’ve had on social media and from all the great videos and photos sent to us during the virtual Gloucestershire School Games


Whatever the true figures, we can be assured that we have created a platform for young people to access resources that help them to be active, develop their skills and find new ways to stay healthy.


I hope during this time we have provided the children with the tools to start, maintain and develop a positive outlook around physical activity and helped to create an enjoyable approach to being active, no matter what shape this activity takes throughout their life.



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James Jeffrey
16 Jul 2020

James Jeffrey is a School Games organiser, delivering sporting competitions and physical activity for Stroud’s young people.