Hundreds of students “en garde” for world record

A total of 300 children from Nansen Primary School and Rockwood Academy joined forces today (Wednesday, 27th September) to collaborate on a very special world record attempt – the largest ever fencing lesson.

The feat took place at Rockwood Academy shortly after noon and was staged to mark National Fitness Day, a major initiative by not-for-profit sports body ukactive, whose aim is to get more people more active more often.

The event also celebrated a deepening partnership between CORE Education Trust academies, national physical activity provider Premier and ukactive.

Children aged nine to aged 12 practised fencing moves including the en garde position, the attacking lunge and parry reposte during the lesson, which was led by Andy Heald, national quality manager at Premier, and Team GB fencing star Ben Peggs.

In order to set the world record, the lesson had to last for 30 minutes and exceed 250 participants. Independent auditors monitored the attempt and details are to be submitted to Guinness for approval as a bona fide World Record. The process is expected to take at least six weeks.

Nansen Primary School Headteacher Cath Rindl said: “It’s been great to collaborate with our neighbour Rockwood Academy and do something truly different. The response from the children has been tremendous. Many have clearly been inspired by this opportunity and are expressing lots of interest in fencing, which is great. We are now going to introduce a fencing club in order to build on the enthusiasm shown by our children.”

Rockwood Academy Headteacher Sofia Darr added: “Attempting our first ever world record at Rockwood Academy was incredibly exciting. We thought it would be quite a challenge coordinating 300 children from two separate schools, but we needn’t have worried – they were absolutely fantastic and really embraced the sport.”

Adrian Packer, CEO of CORE Education Trust and independent Non Executive Director of ukactive, said the record attempt had been a great demonstration of the Trust’s values of collaboration, opportunity, respect and excellence.

“This really has been a day of living the CORE values. You’ve got collaboration in the partnership between our academies, ukactive and Premier.  Then there’s the opportunity it has afforded the children to experience a new sport, and the respect that goes with fencing, in terms of the equipment and attitude towards one’s opponent. And finally, the way the children conducted themselves and threw themselves into the lesson has been a real demonstration of excellence,” he said.

Speaking after the lesson Andy Heald said: “The biggest lessons I’ve taught in my career have involved around 50 to 60 children so this really was something else.

“I was amazed by the response of the children and their level of engagement. We asked questions about what they’d learnt at the end of the lesson and the amount of hands that went up was incredible. The approach was very much to ensure the children got something out of this lesson and I think we’ve achieved that.”

Ben Peggs said: “It’s incredible that we managed to get 300 kids fencing with a sword in their hands and they all listened and showed an interest in learning new skills.

“Traditionally fencing has been quite difficult to break into but there’s now a range of cost effective kit which is making the sport more accessible. The great thing about fencing is that it ecompasses so many aspects of different sports – you have to be fast, dynamic and be able to think on your feet.”

Ben Peggs is one of the country’s leading fencers. His most recent accomplishment was the silver medal at the British National Championships in April 2016, after taking a gold medal in the Men’s Foil Team Event at the European Games in Baku in June 2015.