A bumpy ride to success – magic moment

Just found this post in draft form on my blogger app on my phone from last year….

We are really proud of the success we have in engaging, supporting and celebrating the progress of all our students, in particular those with special educational needs (SEN).

Since changing our ethos to a multi ability approach in PE, we have experienced many positive changes around the quality of teaching and learning and the amount of progress our students make. Not least is the impact it has had on the students with SEN.

We have also challenged the traditional ways of setting in PE (as explained in previous posts).  We recently reviewed the students in our PE groups. Four SEN students were amongst six who moved up to “top set”. The decision was based on rewarding progress, demonstration of a positive attitude and learning behaviors in lessons and not solely on physical ability. The message being sent out to the students is clear… those in the top set demonstrate positive learning behaviours, which is leading to making accelerated progress. We are helping students to understand that these qualities will help them to be successful in PE and sport and quashing the mindset that only naturally “gifted” students can be good at PE and sport.

Last year, I wrote a post called Dodge or bump, which talked about carefully planning to support (bumping) autistic students through certain situations, rather than dodging them all together. A concept I found out about from Matt Lloyd (Springfieldspe.Wordpress.com). This mindset ties in nicely with our over arching academy aim of preparing young people to thrive as adults in society. Dodging students from situations they will find challenging doesn’t always help to achieve this.
I have heard of some schools that still do not successfully engage all of their SEN children, instead choosing to dodge the situation by arranging alternative provision or at worst, offering no provision at all.

Recently, several practitioners from the south west of England, shadowed me for the day to discuss and challenge my approach to #realpe. In the afternoon, I had a Year 9 football lesson. I decided to give all the students an option to develop tactical awareness (using cognitive and social skills) through playing a match/tournament or to develop individual ball skills (social and personal skills).

Seven students chose ball skills, and played a game called “Donkey”. Their Learning intentions were:
Must – change a rule to make an activity more fun or challenging.
Should – take on different roles to support my group
Could – involve others and motivate those around you to perform better.

Whilst none of these actually refer directly to improving ball control, as we so often see in #realpe, by focusing on these skills, the group worked far better than they would have by just trying to focus on their physical skills. The game changed constantly, maintaining high levels of challenge and students remained more fully engaged due to the ownership they had of developing the game.

I floated between the two groups, fully confident that they would all be working well in front of the visitors. The proudest moment of the day happened when I went to review the progress of the donkey group. The group included an autistic student (recently moved to the “top set”) who took great delight in telling me about the new role he introduced to the group (must learning intention) and then proceeded to enforce that rule for the duration of the game about (should – taking on a role to support the group), in addition to taking it upon himself to be spokesperson for the group, telling me about everyone else’s rule changes. He then gave positive feedback to the other students who had also introduced new rules (could – motivating others) and suggested ideas for those that hadn’t.

When I explained to the visiting teachers about this particular students background and the progress he has made, they were astounded. This was matched by the pride I had for the student and the continued progress he is making.

What is also amazing, is how mixing students in this manner has not only supported the less physically able to work alongside the more physically able, but also how it has helped develop the traditional “top set” students’ ability to work with students with SEN.

A very special part of the job.



Every Thursday evening, we have staff CPD sessions. This term we are focussing on SEN.

The purpose of Today’s session was to familiarise all staff with the interventions that the SEN team use to support our students. 
There was a strict 5mins rotation, which kept each micro session short, punchy and fully of content. Staff were encouraged to write reflections and notes about how they might use ideas in their own subject areas.
The entire SEN team (largest department in the Academy) stayed behind to lead the workshops. This was a great effort by the team of LSA’s and is testament to their commitment to supporting our students.
Below are some images of the notes made during the session.

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)

Year 7 peer coaching – Literacy

During the Year 6 invasion day last year, our SENCO and Head of Year 7 watched my session based on a Ronnie Heath walking lesson (Create Development).

She was so impressed with the power of peer coaching in facilitating pupil learning, that it inspired her to set up a peer coaching reading / literacy programme for all year 7 pupils.

The outline of the programme was presented at a teaching and learning group this week. It looks great.

Cesar Milan – Dog Whisperer

If you have read my teaching philosophy page, you will know how Monty Roberts has influenced my teaching style. Horses aren’t the only animal that influences elements of my teaching.

This years cohort of Bath Spa Teachers observed my Year 10 Volleyball lesson this week as an opportunity to observe and raise for discussion behaviour management strategies. I managed to dip in and out of conversation with the BST’s to give them scenarios to consider and perhaps point out subtle things that they may not have noticed.

One of the pupils in my group has a statement for ‘oppositinoal defiance disorder’ or ODD. It’s taken a while to get the measure of him, but I now feel I have got there.

My advice for dealing with all pupils (not just pupils with ODD) was similar to that of Cesar Milan’s dog training techniques. Calm assertion (as opposed to aggression) underpins all of Cesar’s work. My justification for remaining calm, even when faced with poor, dangerous, disrespctful, disruptive behaviours include:

  • Remaining calm allows you to model the appropriate behaviour you are expecting from your pupils.
  • Increased adrenaline (if shouting) often results in increased adrenaline from the pupil, making the situation worse, not better.
  • If the pupils behaviour is in part an effort to wind you up, they realise it isn’t going to happen, they can feel a little silly that they didn’t elicit the desired response, and are less likley to try to ‘push your buttons’ next time.
  • Remaining calm allows you to retain a positive atmosphere in the class, essential for the learning of the other pupils in the class (ironic if you are frustrated that a pupil is disrupting the learning of others, when actually your shouting is even more disruptive).
  • You still need to assert your authority in the class, by enforcing the school/classroom rules, but this can be done in an appropriate manner.

Other behaviour management points of discussion included:

  • get pupils active and engaged early
  • catch the pupils being good as early as possible, to build a positive environment
  • rotate groups around if pupils could spark off being in the same group for too long (especially in a competitive conext).
  • nip small, undesired behaviours in the bud by reinforcing the desired behaviours, before it gets out of hand. 
  • Use pupils with short attention spans in demos to limit possible disruption during task breaks.
  • Promote / reward sportsmanship and fair play, to encourage all pupils to follow suit.

There are so many more strategies to consider. The skill is picking the right strategy for the right group / pupil.