Governors have a great chance to improve pupils opportunities for taking part in physical activity, with the government’s school sport strategy

Not only does PESSCL (PE, school sport and club links strategy) provide the governing body as a whole with a framework and set of targets against which the capacity of a school to deliver high quality physical activity can be measured, but it also provides a professional infrastructure around which individual governors with interest and expertise in the area can make a personal contribution to an important aspect of child development. Although it is not a statutory requirement, maintained schools in England are asked by the government to provide two hours of high quality PE and school sport for every pupil every week. In the last academic year, 85% of schools nationally hit this target a year early. Although great strides have been made in the provision of PE and school sport over the past 10 years, the government expects more. By 2012 it is hoped that every pupil will be doing five hours – two on the curriculum and a further three hours of extra curricular and community sport – every week. Sport in the 21st century is more than just a way of combating obesity and keeping kids off the streets. It is a means by which young people can learn about cooperation, how to deal with success and failure, to set and pursue targets and any other number of important developmental social interactions. In so many ways, sport can enhance lives, provide enjoyment, and help build communities; it can raise aspirations, provide avenues into employment and, for the talented few, afford a way of life of about which most of us can only dream. Neither is sport simply about playing. It is also about coaching and developing leadership skills; it is about administrating and refereeing or umpiring and, of course, spectating. People write about sport, take photographs of memorable and some not so memorable sporting moments; in schools, disaffected youngsters can use sporting themes as a way into core subjects – literacy, maths and science. With BTEC diplomas in sport supplementing the traditional GCSE A-level route, schools now use sport as a hook to encourage youngsters to stay in education longer and gain more qualifications. It is important that governing bodies support what schools are trying to achieve in and through sport. This goes way beyond winning the cricket and netball leagues or getting more youngsters into county squads than the local rivals. It is about child development and tailoring programmes and activities to meet the needs of individuals and groups. With schools required to pursue the Every Child Matters agenda and focus on the whole child rather than simply academia, it is important that areas like sport and the arts are developed and the best possible opportunities for young people to enjoy and progress are provided.

A self-evaluation guide to recognising and achieving high quality PE and sport in schools and clubs is available. Entitled Do you have high quality PE and sport in your school? it is divided into three main sections. Firstly, there is a detailed description of the 10 outcomes of high quality PE and sport with, for each one, a list of indicators that give schools and clubs a picture of what they can expect to see young people doing when they are involved in high quality PE and sport.

Secondly, there is an overview of high quality provision – what leaders, managers, teachers and coaches need to do to achieve high quality PE and sport. Thirdly, there is an overview of effective school-club links – how schools and clubs can work together to achieve high quality and the outcomes they are likely to see as a result. The guide can be downloaded.

Leaders, managers, teachers and the coaches employed by and working within schools will be using the guidance – alongside the national curriculum and the Ofsted inspection framework – to evaluate, and then set about improving, the quality of the PE and sport that they provide for young people. Every maintained school in England is now part of a School Sport Partnership (SSP). Groups of schools working together to develop PE and sport opportunities for all young people, these are organised and led by a team of professionals who have the knowledge, expertise and crucially the time to enhance opportunities for young people to access high quality teaching, coaching and competition. This is supplemented by the work of sports colleges – specialist schools at the hub of school sports partnerships – that possess the necessary staffing and funding to develop PE and sport to new levels. A typical partnership is coordinated by a partnership development manager (PDM). With a background in PE teaching or sports development, the PDM, who is usually based at the sports college, develops strategic links with key partners in sport and the wider community. Each secondary school will be home to a school sport coordinator – a PE specialist who has two days a week off-timetable to develop curricular PE and out-of-school-hours physical activity and competition within their own school and its family of primaries. Depending on its size, there can be up to eight school sport co-coordinators within a partnership. Each primary and special school within the partnership will have its own link teacher, whose role is to coordinate activity and develop opportunities within their own school. They have 11 days off timetable throughout the year where supply cover is paid for by the partnership to access training, monitor and evaluate teaching and to help produce a school and partnership development plan that addresses key priorities and areas for development. Governors can check that school leadership is actually giving link teachers the necessary time to do their job effectively and not overburdening this particular part of their time with other tasks and duties. However, despite the increasing prevalence of school and community sport professionals, there is still a great reliance on volunteers actually to provide the activities. Here is where governors – with a wide range of skills – can help increase school capacity. Perhaps someone is a member of a local club or is involved with a sport that isn’t currently played at their school. Even if they don’t have the time to come in and coach themselves, they might know someone who can and may be able to arrange visits to their club for pupils or even teachers. Arranging transport for matches can be awkward and time-consuming and often, when effective systems are not in place or parental support is thin on the ground, this can mean that teachers have to ferry children back and forth themselves or, as often happens, simply decline to take part. But what if someone on the governing body, or even a friend or relative, took charge of this – even if they simply took it upon themselves to galvanise parents into action, setting up a system whereby different people assisted with transport for different school activities and teams? How much more offsite physical activity could children take part in? This is particularly important for those schools where space is scarce and facilities sparse and of greater than ever potential significance in the light of the fact that high quality community, and in some places professional, sports facilities are becoming increasingly available to schools. The more that governing bodies through their own contacts can do to assist and support, the more time teachers and coaches will have to organise the activities that benefit children and young people.

How can you contribute

  • Take a coaching course in your favourite sport and help out in school
  • Use contacts with friends, families and colleagues to find local people with an interest in coaching youngsters
  • Help organise transport or administration
  • Invite pupils or teachers to your local club
  • Talk to your PE teachers to see how school leadership can further enhance their capacity to deliver
  • Look into ways of attracting additional funding
  • Think of fundraising ideas – such as a golf day where local businesses pay to play
  • Champion the work of your school in the local press
  • Make sure facilities are open to and being used by the community in the evenings and weekends
School Sport Survey 2006-07: Key findings

1 Competitive sport is on the increase:

  • 98% of schools reported that they held at least one sports day during 2006-07
  • 58% hold other intra-school competitions
  • 35% of pupils were involved in inter-school competitions last year
  • Participation rates in inter-school competition vary by age, reaching a peak of 61% among 10 to 11 year olds

2 The variety of sports offered at schools is rising:

  • Secondary schools now offer an average of 21.7 different sports – from mountaineering to kabbadi – as well as traditional sports
  • The average range of sports offered by primary schools has increased to 16
  • Many schools are embracing non-traditional sports – the proportion of schools offering golf (up from 23% to 31%), cycling (up from 34% to 42%), archery (up from 16% to 22%), canoeing (up from 24% to 29%) and orienteering (up from 55% to 59%) has risen significantly over the past 12 months

3 Familiar sports remain pre-eminent in schools

The five most popular sports offered by schools are football (98%), dance (96%), gymnastics (95%), athletics (93%) and cricket (90%).

4 Schools are building more links with local clubs

On average schools now have links to seven different sports clubs. Two years ago the average was just five. The most common links are with football clubs (78%), cricket (56%), dance (45%), rugby union (44%) and swimming (42%).

5 Schools are getting better at identifying sporting excellence

The proportion of pupils registered gifted and talented has more than doubled in four years, from 3% in 2003-04 to 7% this year.

6 Girls at girls-only schools do less sport

65% of pupils at these schools, of which there were just 228 in the survey, take part in two hours or more a week of high quality sport.

Crispin Andrews is a freelance journalist and a former primary PE teacher, school sport coordinator and sports coach

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