I work at St Mary’s Primary school as the PE Coordinator. A small Church of England primary school in Kidderminster, we cater for 221 pupils aged between 2 and 11.
One of the school’s priorities was to ensure the effective use of the PE and Sports Premium, with a particular focus on the DfE requirement to develop sustainability. I was tasked to do this because at that time the school employed a coaching company to run the PE programme.
We began this process by targeting a professional development qualification which I participated in.
Following the first two sessions of the six-day course, and after carrying out course task observation of lessons, it became apparent that the previously mentioned coaching company’s delivery was not aligned to the National Curriculum Programme of Study for PE.
In addition to this, pupils were not demonstrating sufficient levels of activity or engagement, nor were they working at the expected standard.
Investing in specialist skills in curriculum design
My initial sessions on the course had already given me confidence enough to express my concerns about the pupil standards in PE to the headteacher and we made the decision to cancel the contract with the coaching company.
To ensure sustainability, our priority shifted to developing the capacity and capability of the staff so that they could confidently deliver effective learning through the physical education programme and therefore raise standards.
The next two days of the PE specialist training programme allowed me to develop my role as a PE co-ordinator by looking at all aspects of planning from the principles of effective curriculum design to unit and lesson planning.
This gave me the confidence to lead a planning session for the staff and involve them in the design and development of a new PE curriculum for our pupils.
Transforming our curriculum map
In the past, a typical curriculum map consisted of 6 different sports or activities programmed around the six half-terms of an academic year, with activities like athletics scheduled in the summer and dance and gymnastics either side of Christmas.
However, I wanted to develop a curriculum experience that would address the learning ‘deficits’ the children faced at St Mary’s, such as lack of engagement, low ability in most activities and a low level of physical literacy.
The training reassured me I had the ability to mold the school’s curriculum offer into the most suitable format for our teachers and pupils.
The person leading the training encouraged me to look at the issues associated with this typical structure, the main flaw being the typical map ignores the fact that children may not revisit key skills and techniques, essential knowledge, or the successes they have achieved until the next school year.
In addition, an activity-led planning approach offers little or no opportunity to revisit learning from one term to the next.
For example, throwing and catching skills in handling games such as tag rugby in the autumn might not be revisited until seven months time in an activity such as rounders in the summer.
By creating a new curriculum offer which addressed these issues, the staff felt more confident in delivering it as they were assured the map produced addressed the children’s needs and offered them continuous opportunity to improve cognitive as well as physical skills.
Engaging with the school workforce
To ensure the staff felt empowered and confident in teaching PE, I ensured I involved them in the planning sessions to develop the 2016-2017 programme, using the skills I’d learnt from the training.
For example, I encouraged them to propose activities they felt confident delivering whilst also addressing the balance between developing a curriculum for learners, not just a curriculum we wanted to teach.
I had to support teachers but also challenge them to move out of their comfort zone. For example, Circuit training sessions were scheduled which staff were comfortable in delivering, but it also allowed us to co-construct an experience to address pupil learning and performance abilities.
Initially I supported staff by going away and planning the circuit training experiences for them to deliver to different year groups in the spring term.
Activities were planned that we felt the pupils would enjoy and which we had identified as being fundamental to future success in movement.
This allowed us to set clear expectations not only for the circuit training units, but also for future planned activities.
The impact for pupils
To develop pupils’ agility, balance and coordination, exercises such as zig-zag shuttle running, star jumps, and step-ups were used.
As the pupils’ fitness levels improved, so did their engagement, especially in activities such as gymnastics where they performed sequences with greater control, accuracy of movement and fluency.
Above all, we ensured that fundamental skills such as running and jumping, and throwing and catching underpinned every activity throughout the year.
This allowed pupils to view their learning as continuous (instead of separate activities), and allowed sufficient practice time to master these essential skills.
The whole process is an evolving one. I’ve used the skills acquired in the training session to transform this year’s ‘curriculum map’ (2017-18). The activities scheduled might appear the same, but they are now the vehicle for greater age-related learning expectations.
Both staff and pupils have been involved in the planning process – through this, staff were able to appreciate the learning focus and programme coherence, which clearly benefited the pupils.
The key focus of raising standards in PE was to develop subject expertise across the school and get pupils active in a way that developed their fundamental movement skills, their agility, balance and coordination and their overall fitness for activity and competition.
Our assessment of pupils attaining the required standard in PE at the end of key stages 1 and 2 show numbers have increased by 10% compared to the previous year – we are confident this will continue to improve.
The PE coordinator going on the course allowed him to lead us through the curriculum design process which developed a PE programme that suited the children’s needs and was more challenging and engaging than we had previously.
- Member of SLT