I went with Chris Grant, the Vice-Chair of the International Inspiration Foundation; Nick Fuller – the Head of Education at LOCOG; and John Humfress from the Youth Sport Trust to present the school with their 'Get Set' plaque - The Joseph Whitaker School was the first school in the International Inspiration programme to join the Get Set Network.
Chris shared his take on the visit:
A couple of days after our visit to Joseph Whitaker, I'm still buzzing from the experience. From the moment we entered the reception area and saw the updates from Vancouver, it was clear that this school has embraced the Olympic and Paralympic Games and Values, and put them at the heart of its curriculum and day-to-day life.
We heard stories about some of the ways in which this established specialist sports college has shared its know-how with its partner school in Brazil, most notably in improving the engagement and building the self-esteem of disaffected students through young leader programmes and other initiatives.
However, we saw with our own eyes powerful evidence of how the benefits of International Inspiration have also flowed from Recife to Mansfield. Futsal has not only taken the school by storm; they've used it as part of their engagement programme with other schools in the area, and are organising tournaments at both secondary and primary levels.
Along with their cheering colleagues in Year 8 assembly, we were amazed at the athleticism and teamwork displayed by the youngsters who gave a stunning display of not one, but two traditional Brazilian dance forms: Capoeira and Frevo.
We also witnessed at first hand some of the ways in which the Olympic and Paralympic values have been embedded across the school, making Joseph Whitaker a highly worthy recipient of the London 2012 education logo. Year groups vote to adopt one value for their whole year (the Year 7s, new to the school, have chosen 'friendship'; whilst the Year 11s – embroiled in preparations for their GCSE's have, appropriately, chosen 'excellence').
We visited a Spanish class, where the school was using the Young Leader model to increase the confidence and attainment of older students by giving them the opportunity to coach their younger counterparts.
We saw a Winter Olympics-inspired gym circuit, in which older students were leading Year 7s through the slalom; ice hockey; curling etc and we visited a class in which students had designed their own, eco-friendly stadiums for London 2012 (I particularly liked the vegetable gardens in the Park, and the extensive cycle parking facilities). We heard how the recent inter-class competition, based on Summer Paralympic events, had unleashed huge enthusiasm for goalball and other sports.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of our visit was the fact that none of this felt like an add-on or a token gesture. Every student that we met (and we met dozens) exhibited not just enthusiasm and inspiration, but knowledge and appreciation of what the Olympic and Paralympic Games mean, and a real sense that London 2012 belongs to them.