Rebuilding with a foundation stone of why – Guest Post – Helen Tatlock

Here is another reflection from a CLF ITT trainee, following their day at BCA last week.

You can read more posts from Helen Tatlock (@MissTatlock) on her Blog.

Thanks for the post Helen.

Rebuilding with a foundation stone of why

During our teacher training we have been encouraged that in education we should always ‘start with the why’.  At no point have I seen this in greater evidence than on Friday.

Like its pervasive Phoenix logo, Bath Community Academy is rising from the ashes of the falling roll, special measures and closure of the school which once stood on its site. At the heart of its rebirth is ‘why’: starting again, under inspirational new leadership, they started with a question of what their particular purpose was, and crafted their new academy with that purpose in mind.
For this reason, it is truly heart warming to stand in its corridors, classrooms and many centres of physical pursuit and see students getting what they need from their education.  And, I’m sorry Mr. Gove, but, in this instance and at this particular moment at least, what these students need is not knowledge but aspiration, self-belief and a chance to feel successful (having very recently lived through the failure of their previous school).  The staff are brave enough to let students figure things out for themselves, and to provide every opportunity they can for students to achieve. Through this the students are re-engaging with education and acquiring the will to make a positive contribution to their communities. 

The value added is already evident to see – the transformation in energy and ethos after only a little over one academic year is staggering.  The trajectory of this newly opened academy, only 14 months ago, must mean outstanding is the only destination for this school and its incredible staff & students.


Teaching Beyond the Subject – Guest Post – Luke Rudge (CLF ITT)

As part of my SLE role, I organised and ran a day for the CLF ITT cohort of First Direct Trainee teachers.

The focus was on the holistic development and pastoral care of children. This tied in nicely with our whole academy ethos.

The day was made up of several sessions with various staff as well as being immersed into a Year 11 #realpe lesson and BCA’s Project Phoenix enrichement programme.

Here are some reflections from Luke Rudge (@linguisticluke) who is completing his Placement A with us.

You can read other posts reflecting on his learning on his Blog.

Thanks Luke.

Teaching Beyond the Subject

It’s not very often that I get reminded of the times in my life that I’d much rather forget. Sure, I get those moments where I remember doing something completely embarrassing and wishing that the ground would open up beneath me, just as we all do (…or at least, I hope that we all do), but this week has made me reflect heavily upon a few key points in my education, and my reasoning for wanting to become a teacher in the first place…

Once again, I felt lucky enough to have my topic for the week (Pastoral Aspects of Teaching) complement my location for observation days – an academy where, just over a year ago, there were threats of closure, significant behavioural issues and a pupil roll so small that many primary schools could outnumber them, with a catchment area of one of the most deprived areas of the UK. While this seemed like my greatest challenge so far, the knowledge I gained – and the opinion of the academy as a whole – were much different to that which I was expecting.

To jump on a bandwagon and call someone, somewhere or something “awful,” “under-performing” or “risky” epitomises the experiences this academy has endured. In a “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” way, it seems as though the past of the academy continues to haunt its present unfairly. The community structures, language employed, and overall ethos of the academy shows a phoenix that is rising rapidly (which is pretty useful symbolically as the phoenix is incorporated into the logos!) from what was a dire situation. Use of vertical teaching, as opposed to traditional horizontal structures, a behavioural system that focusses on the “self” rather than just the “mind,” and continuity and clarity between staff ensure that all students are taught not just to pass a test, but to make their way after school into whatever they’d like to do.

This holistic approach is employed in a microcosmic fashion into lesson planning. Lesson objectives and outcomes can be the typical “Learn x nouns” or “Understand the difference between imperfect and preterite tenses,” but in a PE lesson (volleyball) I took part in today, the outcomes related to teamwork, communication, and just being a well-rounded person. There was no relation to any volleyball-specific rules or techniques; it just seemed implicit that improvement in the sport would come from being a good team player.

As a bit of background, I am pretty bad with sport. This is not only due to a duff knee, but mostly relating to an experience back when I did PE at Secondary School. In the “Let’s play rugby in the freezing cold without any instructions” method of playing, I was unable to score, let alone get a grasp of what to do. The teacher – feared by most – found the best way to motivate me was to pick me up by the front of my collar and shout at me, with all but a centimetre between our faces, to “get better.” From that moment, I loathed PE, so when I was told we would be doing PE today, I was not only out of my comfort zone, but I was mentally sprinting away from it as fast as my dodgy-knee would allow me.

But, the approach taken by the students and staff at the academy had me wanting to learn and to do more. I was shocked by my willingness to play and, at the end of the session, my desire to keep going and to improve. It was the ethos of community and team-spirit that did this, and where the point of this post comes in – If an ethos this strong and all-encompassing can make me want to continue doing PE, then there are methods at play that I must certainly make use of in my own lessons. While knowledge is a key factor in schooling, it must never, ever be forgotten that a child comes to school to prepare for life after school, and it is our duty to teach the whole child.

How easily I can incorporate this approach into an MFL lesson remains to be seen. Perhaps teamwork can be incorporated in a group translation, or peer reinforcement via a conversation group? Right now, I can’t see my students running around a sports hall, but then, I don’t know what invigorates them just yet. Maybe watch this space for the début of the MFL-volleyball technique…?!

And with that, my initial Uni and CPD block is complete! Now it’s time to dive head-first into my placement A and start trying to amass all of this superb information I’ve been given into a working model; to become a teacher of today, and not one where fear is the teachers’ ally.

BCA reflections – Guest Post – Luke Purnell

Luke Purnell (@PEpurnell) spent a day with us recently as part of the Cabot Learning Federation ITT programme.

Below is a reflection of his day.

You can read more about his learning during his PGCE on his blog.

My journey of becoming a teacher- in school observations

After a day of observations within Bath Community Academy (BCA) my teaching philosophy has expanded and my whole outlook on teaching PE has been strengthened. The PE department have adopted a very innovative teaching style and have changed their focuses within their lessons. Myself and the other trainee were asked to complete a task: we were given 40 cards displaying various physical, personal and sport specific skills, we then had to select the 10 that we thought were the biggest conventions of a successful athlete.

After this process we then were asked ‘which of these are your focuses in your lessons?’ The fact was that none of the selected cards were skill based/ sport specific skills. We were then shown a model that the school use during PE lessons. This model contains 6 qualities the school believe students can posses in order to make them ‘good’ at PE, it was reiterated that the student doesn’t need to be ‘good’ at kicking a ball to be ‘good’ at PE, they can exceed in another area which equally makes them ‘good’ at PE.It was compared with a ‘cog system’, all cogs combine to make the wheel go round. The learning objectives used within the lesson therefore have a main focus upon the ‘cogs’ through the use of an activity. For example a lesson in the gym,  the students were given the objectives to: set independent targets and to work independently to reach these targets. 

It’s my task as a trainee teacher to adopt the magpie approach and start collecting theory’s and experiences and build on my personal teaching philosophy
n.b The “Cogs of learning” approach has been taken from a Create Development product and is not our own work.

Evolving Philosophy – Chris Coombs (CLF ITT) Guest Post

Chris Coombs (@CoombsPE) recently spent a day with us at Bath Community Academy as part of the Cabot Learning Federation ITT Induction Programme.

Here are some of his reflections on the day.

You can follow Chris’ journey by reading his blog

Evolving Philosophy

As part of my PGCE I was fortunate to observe a particular school in Bath on a fascinating journey.
Upon arrival we were informed of the background and the location of the school. This school, although being in Bath is in the bottom 2% of deprived areas in the country. The predecessor school had failed Ofsted and were on the brink of closing before their immense change. 
The school is still in it’s developmental stages but already it is fascinating to see the determination and work ethic of the staff.  I, as a trainee PE teacher, was placed in the PE department and was immediately taken by the philosophy that they’ve adopted and the rationale behind it. 

Although we were merely observing we were asked to complete a card sort exercise. We were given about 40 cards that had desirable skills of a person. Ranging from physical skills to emotional skills and we were asked to take the role of a British and lions coach and chose 10 qualities that we thought would be desirable for a lions player. The outcome was inspirational, we had chose qualities such as passion, growth mindset and inspiring others instead of skills such as passing off both hands, strength and speed!

Upon reflection how many PE lessons are skill based first? A good lesson may include an element of developing the whole child! So if we think that skills are not as desirable as skills necessarily then why are the vast majority of PE lessons skills based! 

My small experience of this school has definitely got me questioning my own philosophy and as a trainee it will constantly develop. I have been truly inspired by this one school and it solidifies my belief that this is such an exciting time to be a trainee teacher

Guest Post – Literacy in PE follow up

Here is a guest post from someone who has identified themselves as ‘the secret blogger’. Mysterious.

Having just spent a good 15 mins proof reading, spell checking, improving grammar and punctuation (irony), here it is…

I would imagine that when you mention developing literacy skills to many PE teachers, their eyes glaze over and possibly sigh for a return to the old days when they just taught PE. Unfortunately, often they, and me, for that matter, weren’t actually teaching Physical education. We were actually just teaching physical! 

The idea of creating opportunities to teach literacy in PE need not include written tasks. In actual fact, I would be completely firmly against this. I believe pupils should learn in PE through taking part in physical activities. By asking pupils to write as part of PE may actually turn pupils away from sport. I can’t actually think of a sport where writing is an integral part to playing the game. Imagine turning up for your favourite subject where you know you excel only to be told that you are completing a written task. For someone like me who loved PE, but struggled in English, this would be disastrous  In any way, could many PE teachers honestly say their own spelling and grammar was good enough to teach this. Do they even have the time to mark the work from a core PE lesson, especially considering the amount of time PE teachers give up anyway. Its great having cross curricular links but the reason we have different departments is because, we as teachers have specialist subject knowledge.

This being the case, we as PE teachers must focus on the literacy skills that apply to sport. Speaking and listening. I’m sure there is not another subject where speaking and listening is so important. If you are a PE teacher reading this thinking it’s not that important, time to take a look at your teaching strategies. Using the example of me above. My English teacher would struggle to get three words out of me when asked to analyse a scene from Romeo and Juliet. However, had I been given the same opportunity to apply the merits of mid 90’s Aston Villa’s “box” formation strike force, I could probably talk for three hours and then apply the same strategy to my lesson by teaching it to my classmates.
Often these blog posts rattle on about ideas and philosophies, which is great, as it allows us to learn and take a critical look at what we do in our lessons. However thinking about it and doing it are very different. Its easy to say I improve pupils literacy in PE, but how.
Here are a few ideas that I have used to encourage literacy in core PE lessons.
1. Don’t teach the class! – This is one of the most effective. Why teach the whole class at the same time. Perhaps having 30 kids sat listening to you intently massages the ego, but what a waste of time. Try teaching one pupil from each group, they then go back to their group to teach the new activity.
2. Lesson plans – Don’t even speak to the pupils for the lesson. Give them a plan for what they need to do, the equipment and a watch. They have to do all the work. When it starts to go wrong (it inevitably will until they gain the skills) be brave and let it go wrong. What a great opportunity to develop literacy and problem solving.

3. Debating – a great warm up activity for pair or perhaps two teams. Develops personal skills such as democracy, waiting your turn and etiquette.

4. Literacy bingo- key words on a card. One pupil marks another group, first group to mention all key words when completing a task wins.
5. Bluetooth instructions – lets the pupils use their phones. They teach their group by using the minimal amount of keywords in a text message / tweet to a friend in their group.
6. Ipad instructions – similar to above. Let pupils record a video to teach a skill or drill on ipod to show their group. How accurate were their instructions. Apps such as coaches eye can be used for this. Similar games can be played in silence pupils have to develop their own non verbal communication.
7. Not my idea but from another blogger who posted in relation to theory classes. IDEA. Identify, Describe, Explain, Apply. Ask pupils to use IDEA when watching others demonstrate. In reality this is nothing new, just proper good teaching.However, the IDEA idea is a great one and works.
8. Lesson glossary. Each group has a whiteboard and write words on the whiteboard that they think are vital to the lesson. At the end of the lesson this could be used for a game of “I CAN!” where each group bets against others that they can for example name 32 words that apply to defensive basketball strategy. Each word could then be justified and even spelling checked in case of a draw or tie.
9. uhmm. Pose a question but ban the answer if the pupils says uhmm as a time filler. When used occasionally, this is a hilarious game and can be used competitively between two teams. Same game can be played using a variety of words. For example, ask a student to teach shooting in football without using the word foot.
10. Post match interviews – use Ipods to recreate a post match interviews. Pose the normal questions that reporters do and get pupils to analyse on the spot the teams performance. Perhaps give a team 1 min to discuss before recording. As pupils become more advanced at describing what is happening, ban them from using typical “footballer” quotes i.e. “sometimes in football you just have to score goals” etc. Same sort of thing for half time team talks. Discussion on what kind of language to use, tone and volume of voice.
There are literally thousands of ideas that can improve literacy through PE. By choosing not to use them, instead focusing on physical skills because you are worried the above ideas might get in the way of real PE teaching, you are doing the pupils a massive disservice. Remember PE, not just P.
Don’t get me wrong there is a place for OLd school PE teaching, it’s just not in school.
Lots of Love,
The secret blogger

One Week in Paradise – Guest Post

A few weeks back, the PE Department hosted a work experience placement called Kelly. She asked to come and spend a week with us to help her prepare for a PGCE in PE starting in September. Kelly had a great week, making some really valuable contributions and putting up with my rants about #realpe.

Below are her reflections.

One week in paradise
My four day experience working within the P.E department at BCA has been intriguing, inspiring and challenging. With knowledge of BCA’s recent circumstances and having spent the last year working at Millfield School, I was apprehensive about my visit to BCA; mostly due to the uncertainty of whether I could confidently teach a class of more than 10 pupils! I was excited to explore and discover the logistics of BCA and I quickly learnt that all teaching and activities are underpinned by the Academy’s motivational ethos of ‘Respect, Friendship and Excellence’. This was not just a school, it was a community.

My first day was an emotional rollercoaster but a lucrative learning pathway nonetheless. I began observing some GCSE students alongside Simon Scarborough, Head of P.E / Senior Leader, where I learnt the importance of having structure to a lesson with clear learning objectives to give the students focus in their learning. I was extremely impressed by the maturity and personal responsibility displayed by the students when using the gym equipment and their ability to work independently with motivation and focus. When Simon explained that they use a ‘Creative Thinking’ scheme that supports their P.E lessons, the previous behaviour I had observed now made sense. Their approach to teaching P.E provokes authentic and meaningful learning through the development of key life skills that these students can apply to diverse areas of their lives. I discovered that Year 7 and 8 especially could easily take ownership of their learning during P.E, often dictating the nature and progression of the lesson to suit their needs.

I was given the opportunity within a lesson to lead a Year 7 group for indoor football where I learnt the most effective way to get the students engaged was to give them small tasks to complete that would stretch their cognitive, personal and social skills. The lesson progressed very interestingly for me as I found myself providing emergency first aid half way through, whilst trying to help the class of 20 students remain calm and occupied. The situation was handled appropriately and I was still looking forward to my final lesson of the day, Year 11 public services. I had been informed about the challenges that some of the students within the group present, but in all honestly I found it extremely challenging and was vastly out of my comfort zone. The most important things I learnt were to be consistent and firm and that co-operation is more effective than conflict. From observing Ali’s Year 9 GCSE lesson I learnt that creating small, fun and individual tailored tasks engages the students more in their learning and allows them to explore a topic through guided discovery.

Throughout my experience I observed many great teachers in various faculties all using the ‘LEAP’ strategy to support their lessons. Personally I have found this very useful when planning and delivering lessons at Millfield with regards to outlining the expectations and learning objectives at the start of the lesson and assessing that learning at the end. The Principal held a very inspirational assembly using a quote from Sol Campbell about performing at your maximum consistently so that your maximum becomes the norm, which is greatly supported by the ‘must, could, should’ objectives teachers use regularly at BCA. Simon introduced me to the ‘comfort, stretch, panic’ concept that really got me thinking about where I would place myself on the curve with regards to my teaching abilities and experiences at Millfield and also how I could use this concept to get students to independently assess themselves during P.E lessons. It simply entices you think, “Am I working as hard as I could be?”

Most prudently, BCA incorporates an authentic and differential scaffold for learning in terms of its teaching, pastoral support and extra-curricular activities to equip their students with the necessary skills and tools that will make a difference to their lives. I feel extremely privileged to have been part of BCA and would love to return to see the unequivocal success of all its determination and hard work.

Thank you very much for this opportunity Simon and Ali, and all the best!

Guest Post – Phil Wylie

In 2001, Phil Wylie (Twitter- @inspir_EDPhil ) completed his PGCE in Secondary PE on the same course  as me at Bath University. Since then, Phil has worked in both a Secondary and Primary setting.

Here is a fantastic piece written by Phil that describes how his philosophy has transformed his teaching from delivering the traditional physical skill focused schemes of work to using learning journeys that focus on a holistic approach to child development.

Enjoy the read.

Investment in the learner as a person accelerates all their learning. As they become more confident, resilient, resourceful, socially developed with a growth mindset they also enhance their ability at sports, music and anything else” (Carol Dweck)
During the past 3 years since my redundancy at my secondary PE teaching job, I have been in the fortunate position to work as a School sports coordinator. This has allowed me the opportunity to work at both primary and secondary level observing best practice around the country and given me time to reflect on my own teaching practice and philosophy.  This time has seen an improvement in my own teaching as a result of some changes in my teaching philosophy.
5 years ago I genuinely believed it was an important skill for a child to learn how to hold a hockey stick correctly, dribble a small ball around several cones accurately using the “correct” side of the stick. It use to frustrate me when a child got this wrong or couldn’t remember which side of the stick was the legal side to touch the ball ‘according to the rules’. However, a thought occurred to me one day; if the same children who I tried (and failed) to teach this skill to asked me “when was the last time you used this skill sir?” I would have to own up and say……….”I can’t remember”. Clearly it is not an essential skill as the likelihood of me using it on a daily basis is limited to whether or not I am an amateur or professional hockey player. I considered the point further asking; does the same philosophy apply to other PE skills such as a forward roll, a lay up, a cruyff turn?

I began to consider ‘what is important about PE and sport’?  A sports specific skill isn’t necessarily an essential skill, but the process of the skill is. The ability to see a challenge in front of me or something I have not tried before, the courage to have a go, the resilience and determination to keep trying when at first I fail at the task and embrace the challenge, the confidence to ask for help when needed and the then act on advice and finally the confidence to demonstrate my learning and progress to others. And what about the creativity to find new and different ways to use the skill?
David Milliband (2003) stated the sole purpose of a 21stcentury education was “learning to learn for a lifetime of change”. If this is the case, then we need to do more than attempt to perfect sports skills within PE and prepare our young people for the jobs, careers, technologies of the future and a life outside of school. Observations of PE in secondary schools over the last few years highlighted the huge emphasis we place on developing sports skills rather than personalising our approach for the learner.
Departments often based their curriculum on availability of facilities or timetable issues or to ensure rugby was taught in line with local school leagues/competitions so that the school can “put out a strong team as nobody comes to training if we aren’t doing it in lessons”. Unfortunately, extra curricular teams represent less than 10% of our student,s so in such instances we are designing our curriculum around a small cohort rather than personalising opportunities for every child. As an SSCO running regular festivals and competitions for children, I noticed that often the same children represented their school in several sports i.e. if they were good footballers they were good games players and therefore could play basketball or rugby as well. Schools were not providing opportunities for as many students as they thought. Many school team players already played for local teams and therefore already had opportunities outside of school regardless of whether the school provide the same opportunity.
Recently there has been a noticeable change in thinking and focus within other PE departments.
My attention was then drawn towards the way we celebrate progress and success with our youngsters. Traditionally I praised students who successfully completed a task/skill or who played well during a game, ignoring effort, determination and students who overcome challenges – essentially all the behaviours I really wanted to see from my students. Carol Dweck showed that by praising positive behaviours we develop children with “growth mindsets” where they believe they can improve and develop through effort and that talent and ability is not innate.
My response to this period of reflection was to change the way I taught and align my philosophy with my teaching. Whether I am working in a primary or secondary environment, with able or less able students my approach is to develop every child as a person and prepare them as happy, successful life long learners with a growth mindset.
How do I choose the focus of my lessons? I get to know my students, learn their strengths and areas for development and then personalise learning by focusing on the skills that will achieve the above. No longer do I follow rigid sports skills schemes of work and instead use learning journeys focusing on wider essential life skills meaning assessment for learning is much more clear to students. In my PE lessons there are physical and non physical outcomes and in the attempt to include and value all children from the beginning of the lesson. There is choice and trust as I shift as much responsibility for learning toward the learner themselves not only through activities but through peer feedback and assessment for learning. When a child is successful we celebrate their success as a class as children are actively encouraged to observe and acknowledge their peers.
Impact on learning
There have been several improvements I have seen as a result of the change in my teaching.
Recently a secondary Head of PE said to me “I have Year 13 students who cant analyse and evaluate strengths and weaknesses of performance for their A level work”. I was very proud to inform him that I had 30 year 4 students who were all capable of observing and analysing performance and giving some helpful feedback to their peers. I added that as a result of having 30 young teachers in my class all students have made accelerated progress in their physical skills. My point was that if start to develop these essential skills in the early years students will be able to demonstrate and apply the skills appropriately in later years as well as well as having improved sports skills.
Regardless of physical ability students display more desire to engage and make progress in PE lessons. Individuals are much clearer about where they are in their learning and what the next step is in their journey. By focussing on wider skills more children if not all feel valued and included in lessons from the beginning of lessons and are motivated on self improvement and personal best as opposed to comparing themselves with the “gifted and talented” peers. In fact students whose physical skills are below that of their peers actually can make accelerated physical progress in lessons as a result of having higher level personal and social skills.
Overall, I feel that by focusing on developing the wider skills, students are actually better prepared to be successful learners across all their subjects.
“As they become more confident, resilient, resourceful, socially developed with a growth mindset they also enhance their ability at sports, music and anything else” (Carol Dweck)