April 06, 2009
Harry Potter's Quidditch Comes To Welsh School:
The sport - one of the most famous aspects of JK Rowling's bestselling stories - is the most popular game in the wizarding community, played by two teams mounted on broomsticks.
But Ferndale Comprehensive School in Rhondda Cynon Taf, South Wales, has adapted the game for the non-magical "muggle" community after similar variations were a hit in American schools.
Muggle quidditch is not exactly the same as the wizarding version; as well as the absence of broomsticks and bewitched balls there is no "seeker," the position played by Harry Potter himself.
But the confines of reality have still enabled the school to keep most of the fictional sport's rules, ending up with a cross between dodgeball and handball.
Attacking "chasers" attempt to put the "quaffle," or ball, past the goalkeeper whilst the opposing team's "beaters" try to hit them with different balls called "bludgers."
Keiron Port, a Year Seven pupil at Ferndale Comprehensive School, said: "Quidditch is a good fun game, it is fast and has lots of exciting moments. My favourite position has got to be the chaser, I like it because you get to score most of your team's goals."
The development of Quidditch at the school is part of the 5x60 scheme, a Welsh Assembly Government initiative aimed at getting children active with new and different sports.
Ferndale Comprehensive School became the first school in Wales to bring in Quidditch as part of the 5x60 programme when PE teacher James Vale, who runs the scheme at the school, drew up his own rules based on American versions of the game.
He said: "When playing, standing still is not an option as doing so will certainly catch the eye of a beater and a bludger will be heading your way.
"This means that players are always on the go unlike in other sports where players are sometimes not really involved in the game.
"As well as improving general fitness levels the game also improves hand eye co-ordination, concentration, awareness and promotes team work. The year seven pupils have picked up the rules really quickly and have even thought of some changes to improve the game."
The 5x60 scheme, launched in October 2006 at a cost of £7.6 million, is already under way in 98% of secondary schools across Wales and is expected to encompass all schools in the country by the end of the financial year.
The 5x60 scheme aims to make sure all secondary school pupils do at least an hour of sport and exercise five times a week.
Each school appoints a 5x60 officer who is responsible for offering pupils a range of activities - not just traditional sports - and then organising the ones the children most want to take up.