You wouldn't expect to find a group of 30 or so nine and ten year old schoolchildren in racing silks at a racecourse on a Wednesday afternoon during term time. But yesterday, Goodwood played host at its meeting to a group of primary school pupils from Siddlesham and West Wittering in one of the British Horseracing Education and Standards Trust (BHEST) racecourse days.
The charity, which has an emphasis on the various aspects of numeracy that can be applied within racing, is aiming to reach over 100,000 schoolchildren in the next 10 years. Yesterday's group were involved in five hours of practical maths across all aspects of the racecourse, including that normally secretive place, the weighing room.
Under its banner of Racing to School, BHEST offers opportunities at every stage of learning to apply maths in a practical context. Take the Parade Ring, where the very young can learn to count (Key Stage 1) or older pupils can put mathematical calculations into practical use (KS 3 & 4). The program also extends into other areas of education, and participants have been involved in the design of racing silks (KS 2) or the science of jockey nutrition (KS 3 & 4).
One of the most popular aspects of the programme is the opportunity to try out the mechanical horse Equiciser, which demonstrates the importance of balance in the centre of gravity.
There's no doubt that these days prove extremely successful for both teachers and pupils alike. What's very clear from the letters of support is that they are often successful in bringing out some of the more withdrawn pupils, providing a framework of reference for teachers to build on that initial spark of interest.
Looking at the calendar on the BHEST website (www.bhest.co.uk/racing_to_school/calendar) I'm surprised at how frequent and widespread is the coverage of Racing to School. Next month alone, there are 24 events throughout the country. If you're at Exeter on 6 October or Musselburgh on the 26th and you see what appears to be a group of very tiny jockeys, don't think that the bar staff have slipped you extra tot in your glass, it's most likely to be a group on a Racing to School day.