After three failed attempts to get tickets for even the most obscure Olympic events we’d given up hope of witnessing any of the memory-making extravaganza that is the 2012 Games. Hence I was gobsmacked to discover that, having been entered for an unlucky losers draw, we actually had tickets for the Opening Ceremony! Mindful of the ticket fiasco and resulting loss of inclusivity, I felt privileged to be among the minority able to enjoy the spectacle firsthand. And the experience did not disappoint. The show was a heady mix of creativity, imagination, technology, history and culture, not to mention copious humour. The vast yet intimate space theatrically transformed before our eyes, turning from rural idyll to a sparse industrialised landscape and suburbia. A combination of brilliant choreography, props and above all imagination took a billion onlookers on a journey of discovery and transformation, much like the transformation of Stratford itself.

Although not every international spectator would have appreciated all the humour and cultural references within the show, few could question its originality, quality and professionalism. It seemingly offered something for everyone and managed to provide a personable experience for individuals as well as a visual spectacle on the macro level. The result was a triumphant display of both intimate and epic proportions.

The Olympic Games has been heralded as an opportunity to create a legacy, not just in bricks and mortar and attitude to sport and fitness, but also in inspiring young people’s vision and determination to succeed. Jacques Rogues referred to the potentially wider educational legacy of the Games, and I for one hope this is realised. Reflecting on the Ceremony, I can’t help feeling that it encapsulated so much of what our education system should be offering young children. It brought history to life, merging creativity, expressive arts and design with cutting edge technology, cooperation, hard work and determination. The result was a story with resonance and meaning to the public, inspiring young and old in the process.

The ceremony was not short of intrigue, excitement and surprise. Clearly every day school can’t compete on anything approaching this scale, nor would that be desirable, as TV, computer games and 21st century toys already programme children for low attention spans and unrealistically action-packed lives, but this should not be an excuse for offering bland and boring learning opportunities in the classroom.

Children have a fascination for the detail found all around us in everyday life, so as any good early years practitioner will tell you, once the Olympics are a distant memory there will still be plenty of learning opportunities to be inspired by a dead stag beetle found lying on the ground, an un-hatched egg in an abandoned nest or the grains of sand in a tray. If we build upon opportunities like these and recognise the value of project work for giving children scope to become absorbed and take ownership of their learning, like my 9 year olds passion for Tudor maths – (costing, planning and marketing a Tudor banquet) then we are likely to have eager-eyed learners. Classrooms have traditionally kept work and play distinct, even using the carrot of free play time to secure quality work. This can unhelpfully give the message that play is just for young children – a real loss to society as surely all the great advances in mathematics, science, music, creativity and exploration owe their origins, at least in part, to an active and playful mind?

So what were my lasting memories from the night? One had to be the wide mouthed look of shock on my six year old’s face when he thought 007 and the Queen were parachuting into the Arena – undoubtedly priceless! Another was the feeling of unity, pride and celebration that pervaded and the drama and ingenuity of the rings and Olympic flame cauldron evolving before our eyes. But my residing memory is far more mundane. Danny Boyle cleverly used hospital beds to create drama, spectacle and quite literally convey a message. Its execution showed skill, finesse, courage, creativity and above all a playful mind. Who in the billion onlookers could have foreseen the starring role of humble hospital beds – albeit beefed-up versions with high tech gadgets – in this global phenomena?  I suspect Danny Boyle would have been a lone voice and yet this out-of-the-box thinking typifies his brilliant achievement and is exactly the sort of divergent thinking that the education system should be nurturing in children, especially as the curriculum becomes increasingly formal. Tasked with delivering the Opening Ceremony few would be playful, or let’s face it, brave enough to use humble objects in such a high profile spectacle. Similarly it takes a brave Key Stage 2, 3 and sadly even KS1 practitioner to infuse playfulness in everyday learning. I hope I’m not alone in being inspired by those beds and that parents and teachers across the globe will be compelled to ‘Make time to play!

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