Tags: Assistant Head | Classroom Teacher | Curriculum Development | Curriculum Manager | Leadership Challenges | PE and Sport | Raising Achievement | School Leadership & Management | Subject Leader | Teaching and Learning

Crispin Andrews talks to assistant headteacher Karen Collinswood about the role of school leadership in developing high-quality PE in primary schools

School leadership must play a crucial role if children are to experience regular high-quality physical activity in their primary schools. It is not enough to simply leave everything to the primary link teacher with a bit of help from their SSCo and perhaps the male teacher in Year 6. Do this and however talented and enthusiastic the individuals in question, their impact will be marginalised, reduced by the very fact that they only have a certain amount of time and influence. Battling alone against inhibiting factors such as lack of space, time, support from parents and other staff members, curriculum pressures and health and safety issues can drive even the most committed primary link teacher to drink. But by acting as an enabler, facilitator and a disseminator of information and good practice, school leadership can maximise the impact of the work of their primary link teacher and ensure a high-quality physical activity experience for all their children. Here, Karen Collinswood, assistant headteacher at Oak Green Combined School, explains how by dealing with lots of little whole-school questions it has been possible to ensure that all Key Stage 1 students have their regular weekly two-hour diet of physical activity. “It’s a case of establishing a profile for physical activity within the school and then making sure that things run smoothly enough for the plans you put in place to actually produce the goods,” she says. Karen, who is also the school’s primary link teacher, gives the following advice on how to ensure Key Stage 1 pupils get two hours of high-quality PE and sport per week:

  • Stick to a rigid timetable – where the necessary amount of PE has a regular slot that doesn’t change if, for instance, there is other work that is unfinished, children misbehave or the weather is not ideal. Make this a whole-school policy, something that the senior leadership expect and monitor.  At Oak Green we have three lessons in the morning and so are able to fit in a 45-minute slot after maths and before break for one class every day.  This means that whole year groups don’t have to share their PE lessons, which can cause problems if they have to use the same indoor spaces.
  • Make sure there is an expectation from senior leadership that all lessons finish on time. It only takes one teacher to overrun a maths or literacy lesson by five minutes and you are eating into the time allocated for the next lesson – particularly if children are in sets for core subjects and have to change classrooms to get to their next lesson. If this is the case, why not get them changed into PE kits in their maths or literacy sets rather than having to swap rooms twice? At Oak Green we use a two- or three-minute song and expect children to be changed by the time it ends. Key Stage 1 children do have the advantage of being able to get changed in class.
  • Use all available spaces so that classes can share PE slots but not have to use the same location. We have a dining room here that can be used at certain times of the day. Make sure cleaning routines are in synch with lessons that take place after lunch.
  • Keep resources accessible and tidy.  This might seem obvious, but if it takes staff 10 minutes to find the equipment they need this is time they could be using more profitably elsewhere.
  • Set aside time for brain gym and ‘wake and shake’ activities outside the timetabled PE curriculum, which increases the time spent on physical activity.
  • Utilise school assemblies and shows as opportunities for dance and movement-based activities.  We have two whole-school dance shows and a gymnastic festival to which every class contributes, with teachers choreographing the moves.
  • Make sure there is enough expertise, knowledge and resources readily available or easily accessible to support the delivery of high quality physical activity.
  • Ensure a whole-school profile for physical activity so that teachers and pupils have something to aim for. Here it is a regular agenda item at senior management meetings.

As is often the case, it’s the singer as much as the song that counts.  A junior member of staff comes up with these ideas and they could well be scoffed at and, in all likelihood, ignored – particularly by teachers who are not interested in PE. Suggested by the senior leadership, however, they become something that must be acted upon – even if it is raining outside and there’s some really important topic work that hasn’t been finished.

This article first appeared in PE & Sport Today – Sep 2007

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