Following the success from the 2012 London Olympics and the enthusiasm generated from the Commonwealth Games in 2014, reports claimed that it was only former pupils from private schools that went on to do well in sports, mainly in England. Quite a commotion was caused by this claim which played down attempts from state secondary schools who valued Physical Education in their curriculum. Published in the July 2014 Edition of UKEdMagazine (click here to view), Bryn Llewellyn counteracts these claims, showing how schools are offering opportunities and resources to their pupils to help them excel in their desired sport.
Earlier this month, Sir Michael Wilshaw caused yet another furore, this time incurring the wrath of teachers with responsibility for PE and School Sport. The Ofsted publication, ‘Going the Extra Mile: Excellence in Competitive School Sport’ (bit.ly/uked14jul09) brought into sharp focus the high proportion of British Olympic competitors who had been educated in independent schools. This observation, accurate though it is, played into the hands of those critics who point out that our recent Olympic successes have mainly been limited to ‘sitting down sports’, usually associated with more affluent members of our society.
Having only worked in state schools, I was invited to QEGS Junior School (bit.ly/uked14jul10) in Wakefield last year, where I was genuinely overwhelmed by the importance placed on PE, as well as the opportunities and resources available to their Learners. I left, knowing the gulf between state and independent schools was greater than I had ever imagined and I could see why parents would choose to send their children to such places of learning.
In this video (bit.ly/uked14jul11), Sir Michael says there is a link between doing well on the playing fields and in the classroom. Most educators of PE and School Sport, whether they are working in state or independent schools, would not disagree with the link between success on the playing fields and in the classroom.
However, there were many who questioned Sir Michael, who seemingly chose to ignore the other factors involved. Some of the tweets following a post from Victoria Derbyshire of Radio 5 Live blamed the Government for selling off school playing fields. Others blamed Gove and the current Ofsted regime for forcing Head Teachers to focus purely on core standards, treating PE as a second-rate subject, regardless of the Government’s oft-stated desire to create an Olympic Legacy. Sadly, too many primary school leaders are choosing to focus only on numeracy and literacy, supplemented by guided reading and phonics sessions every morning, thus inevitably squeezing PE into a limited afternoon timetable.
Fortunately, in England we do have School Sports Premium Funding, which allows schools some flexibility in how they spend their allocation. For example, Burley Oaks Primary School(bit.ly/uked14jul12) are innovative by using some of their funding to employ a Health Mentor for 2 days a week. That said, there are many other state schools who buy in coaches from outside agencies simply as cover for PPA, with little in the way of CPD for staff, sustainability and a genuine sporting legacy.
The week before the publication of ‘Going the Extra Mile: Excellence in Competitive School Sport’,Physical Education and School Sport (PESS) South Wales hosted their conference, ‘Physical Literacy: the Game Changer’, allowing educators and learners to showcase their work. Primary schools in Wales do not have funding for Primary PE and Sport Premium, but what they do have are passion and creativity, two terms commonly over-used in education, but not in this case. To find out more, search the hashtag #PESSConf14, visit sportwales.org.uk, and check out their work on Physical Literacy (bit.ly/uked14jul13).
Sir Michael may well urge state schools to look to their independent counterparts for inspiration and ideas, and I can see why. However, the term ‘a level playing field’ does seem somewhat erroneous in these circumstances.
Ignoring the politics for one moment, it is wonderful that the £750m funding for Primary PE and Sport Premium has been extended to 2020. …
Bryn Llewellyn has over 20 years experience working in state schools, including three half Deputy Headships.
He now works as an independent advisor for various organisations, including https://evolvesi.com.