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Friday Interview: Mr Ian Gavin

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This week saw Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet students tearing around the Ursvik countryside for the second year in a row at the annual Inter House Cross Country Competition. IEGS News talked to Mr Ian Gavin, one of the teachers who helped organise the race.

IEGS: What's the aim of having an IHC CC race?Mr Gavin: I think there are many aims that underpin all Inter House Competitions, and with the Inter House Cross Country being the first main event of the year, its success is of paramount importance.

With respect to Cross Country itself, it is quite a logical choice for a first event. Outdoor activities in Sweden are very popular, and at Ursvik, we have access to a fantastic facility that is set-up specifically for events like ours.

Cross Country is also an ideal choice to be first because it is an event that everyone can participate in and represent their house. While chess, debating, football, basketball, ensemble, table tennis, boxing and athletics require a house to select their best pupils in those events to represent their house, cross country is something that everyone can be involved in, regardless of previous experience or skill level. From this point of view, it works hand in hand with the song that follows it straight after to really promote a sense of house identity and spirit.

IEGS:Do Swedish students approach cross country differently to students at a British school?

Mr Gavin:The comparison of Cross Country in Swedish and British Schools is virtually impossible. Having worked in inner-city schools in England, cross country is something that many pupils in areas like this simply don't and won't participate in. There are many reasons for this, from overzealous health and safety regulations and a lack of high quality facilities to undertake the activities in, to a general lack of 'outdoor' culture amongst urban Brits.

In Sweden, using the outdoor environment for leisure and sport is much more common, and indeed, could be considered as a vital element of what shapes the identity of many Swedes. Cross country running, or at least running/jogging in the natural environment is not alien to most of our pupils, so asking them to undertake the event, at such an amazing and specifically laid out venue is not such a big ask.

IEGS: This is your first experience of an IH competition at Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet. What was it like?

Mr Gavin: I really enjoyed it! I have had a sneak preview of a previous IHC in June last year when I was over in Stockholm for a few days and dropped in on the Summer Sports Day. However, this one was the first that I had a serious involvement in. The turnout, despite the cold weather was good, and it was great to see so many people trying to complete the course and represent both themselves and their house.

With regard to the House competition aspect, I think that this is still something that is developing at IEGS, and hopefully as the events become a permanent and regular fixture in the school calendar, all staff and pupils will not only embrace the system wholeheartedly, but also understand how to embrace it.

In my short time at the IEGS it is possible to identify how different House have moulded their own culture and identity, and I hope that this continues to develop and that all pupils can feel a real sense of pride in their house and a sense of honour and responsibility when representing it.

IEGS: Were you disappointed that not everyone ran?

Mr Gavin: In an ideal world, everyone will run and we will have pupils pushing to break school records. However, in reality, I was very pleased with the turn-out and participation amongst pupils.

IEGS can be proud of the fact that hundreds of pupils travelled across the city and participated in an sporting event. While always impressed by the better runners amongst us, I was also really pleased with the number of pupils who did their best to run all the way round, even if they did need to take it a little slower, or walk on more difficult stretches.

In a school like ours, which isn't a specialist sports gymnasium, it is easy to forget that not everyone considers running in the cold fun! I was also seriously impressed with the pupils who couldn't run because they were ill or injured but still turned up and offered to help out staff wherever they could.

One of the biggest disappointments, though, was the number of pupils who called in ill on the day. My hope is that those that were there will stress what a great day it was and that it was worth the effort to get to Ursvik next year and take part. Hopefully, they will realise that life is pretty boring if you only do things that you are good at!

IEGS: What was the highlight of the IHC CC for you?

Mr Gavin: There were many highlights for me personally in this IHC. It's always nice when you spend a lot of time planning the intricate details of an event like this, considering all the potential problems and how to deal with them, and then not needing to use those back up plans.

It was a pleasure to be able to cheer pupils through as they approached the finish and to see a beaming smile and sense of accomplishment appear at the end of the race. It was also great to see staff pull together, put the planning into practice and ensure that pupils had a great day. From a personal point of view, it was great to see King House win a trophy at the event for the first time!

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