School Sport – Development of G&T or Promotion of Sport for All

A few days ago, I started a debate on twitter about the purpose of school sport. Good contributions from @northtownpe, @stand_out_in_pe and @rhianturnball was followed by someone that sent me a direct message (DM) and asked if they could guest post on my blog. Their philosophy certainly supports the values that underpin #realpe and address issues around the Olympic legacy. The legacy doesn’t necessarily mean more people should aspire to become elite athletes, moreover, a greater proportion of children grow up wanting to be involved in physical activity and sport at some level. 

I wonder how much resistance there will be from the ‘traditional’ PE teacher… 
“Extra-curricular sport aimed at high level performers is not our goal although it is a great opportunity to allow high ability athletes to compete for their school. We aim to get lower/middle ability pupils attending extra-curricular sport as the higher performers are already playing for clubs etc already. We are finding that with some high level pupils, club sport is already their priority and they are less interested in school sport because of this.
We at the moment would not be likely to enter a team in any competition aimed at high level performance as these pupils, no matter what our input, are likely to continue lifelong learning in sport after they leave school whether or not they take part in Inter schools competitions. This is especially so in sports like football, rugby, hockey and netball. However, with Athletics and the like, where school sport can still be the pinnacle of achievement for pupils, elite sport has its place. 

Our main focus is to give pupils who won’t be taking part in club level sport a chance to compete through school sport and hopefully engaging more pupils in competitive sport rather than the ones who are already competitive. Because this ethos is very different from other schools, entering these pupils in high class competitions  will prove counter productive for their development as although these pupils tend to be socially and personally able their lack of physical prowess would show up in these competitions. A major change in culture is needed to divert attention from the minority to the majority of pupils. I believe the culture of creating winning school teams is a dated one and does little to promote “sport for all”.
Although high competitions are great fun for the highly able and a real target for some schools, because of our low intake numbers and lower than average physical skill level in PE they are not appropriate for us.
These competitions place higher demand on staffing (staffing that we just don’t have) and thus our focus must remain on those pupils not already competing and taking part in sport outside of school. (saying that though I can imagine how a great cup run can do wonders for those 11 pupils and could be amazing fun for the teacher as well- but is it worth it for the sake of 12 people when the same outlay of effort could target hundreds by offering in school clubs?)
With unlimited resources, high level competitions are useful as a tool for developing physical skills in high performing pupils, however it would be interesting to find out the percentage of pupils taking part in inter school competition but not competing for a club teams. What is the focus, winning matches or developing as many pupils in as many ways as possible? This may well be a tough decision to take especially for schools who are especially successful when competing at school sport.
With increasing time demands on pupils and teachers given the choice of providing for the 12 physically able pupils or the 100 back at school wanting to become physically very able, the moral decision on which to choose is a very obvious one.
From our point of view, the same format of competitions but for pupils working in the mid levels of the NC assessment grading criteria would be far more beneficial to us. Currently the majority of fixtures are arranged as competitive friendlies against local schools. By focusing on the lower ability pupils, not taking part in competition outside of school, during extra curricular PE is likely to end up increasing the number of elite performers by increasing the size of the base of the participation pyramid. This does mean though that additional time needs to be placed into developing real and effective school club links for pupils who progress quickly and outgrow school sport”.
For us, the ideal mix would be lunchtime extension clubs for the very physically able (and others if they choose to come) mixed with occasional (but not regular) high level fixtures against other schools for elite performers. The main bulk of fixtures should be targeted towards those pupils with an interest in competitive sport but not playing for clubs outside of school. Through competing in school sport these pupils hopefully will then have developed physical, personal and social skills that will enable them to make the move into local clubs or academies.
Although this outlook may seem very anti-competitive, it’s not, in fact it’s very pro-competitive. On the premise that a culture change is developed that allows competition to be targeted at the correct pupils.”
– Anon 
Would love to hear your thoughts on this…
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3 thoughts on “School Sport – Development of G&T or Promotion of Sport for All

  1. That is very Eloquent and I agree with much of it. It is a very difficult concept to sell to parents and staff though, and equally may have a detrimental affect on recruitment of staff and pupils. The solution, as ever for me, is similar to that which they have in NZ, where every member of staff 's contract states they must offer x number of hours of an extra – curricular activity. Whether this be sporting or non-sporting. With academies schools can do this. Let's face it, in PE we now do lots of theory (& marking), manage many resources, don't have downtime between lessons, don't get lunchtimes. I believe we do more than our fair share and I think it's about time our colleagues in other departments put some time in too! An hour or 2 per week from each member of staff for one term could really impact on how much sport is delivered and really raise participation levels.

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  2. Pingback: Senior Leaders – A future gold medalist or removing disadvantage? | Leading in Education

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