Blunkett transfers football into classroom to aid low-scoring pupils

Making the grade: The teaching guide's cover
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The Independent Online

The early bath and a game of two halves may be among football's hoariest clichés, but David Blunkett is enlisting them as weapons in the battle to teach boys English and maths.

Children have to translate the language of the match pundit, work out transfer fees and complain about the cost of home and away strips as part of a new government guide to using the sport in schools.

The footballing activities for pupils aged eight to 14 are contained in a 50-page teaching guide launched as part of a link-up between the Department for Education and Employment and 39 leading clubs, including Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest and Newcastle.

In one English exercise, children are asked to define the offside rule, one of the most confusing and argued about concepts in sport. English exercises also include writing a manager's half-time pep talk and composing match reports.

Maths lessons include working out goal difference in the World Cup and calculating the breakdown of attendances at each match.

Ten thousand copies of the Learning FC guide are being produced for use in special football club learning centres and schools. The book, written in conjunction with staff at Manchester City Football Club, was paid for with a £100,000 grant from the Professional Footballers' Association.

Mr Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, launched the most recent football club classroom last month at Old Trafford, Manchester United's ground, as part of the Government's £15m Playing for Success Initiative. Research into the first six football centres, set up in 1997, found improvements in English and maths, as well as better attendance among pupils.

Manchester City's learning centre gives 10-week afterschool courses to children aged nine to 14 at the club's Maine Road ground. They tour the ground and take part in activities such as drawing up a board game based on the rules of football, or writing newspaper articles about their trip.

Alison Sheldon, a teacher at the centre, said: "We talk to teachers and they are very keen to send us their pupils. The children love it.

"I used to use Euro 96 as a project in school. The children are really interested in football and if they are interested in something they want to do it. It's half the battle won."