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It’s OK to say “NO!”

20 November 2023

Feeling pressurised from all sides! It’s okay to say “No” and ask for help! and why is the PE cupboard always such a mess!!!!
We are having an increased number of conversations with primary PE leads who are really feeling anxious and under pressure, even over-whelmed by the role. As a result, their well-being is clearly suffering along with their ability to enjoy the potential within this role. It is not just from those new to the role either but also from those who have been in post for many years. No primary PE subject leader should feel this way! It worries me that this is becoming more widespread in my experience and daily role.
In our conversations, they are telling us that they feel more and more pressured to respond and engage with a plethora of outside agencies, initiatives, competitions, festivals, trials of new sports, new companies, provide information on numbers etc. When juggling a full teaching commitment, school life and trying to find a balance between work and home this can be incredibly stressful and to even to feelings of lack of worth, wanting to quit etc.
Such anxiety usually comes to light when we are talking with them about their school, it’s curriculum – that which impacts upon every pupil in the school. This is because this is what we do! It might be talking about areas where developments are required to ensure that pupils get high-quality outcomes or simply get safe, structured, and appropriate progressive PE for all. Many PE leaders, have inherited or come into posts where there are no risk assessments, no afPE Safe Practice in PE, school sport & physical activity manual for guidance, there may be no planned and sequenced progressive scheme of work, no curriculum map, no PE policy to guide staff – and a staff who lack confidence and competence in teaching PE. There may, despite significant ring-fenced funding over the last decade be insufficient resources, poorly maintained and offering very limited scope for differentiation for example. When faced with even a few of these areas for improvement, the role can seem daunting, especially if you have never led a subject or are just out of your Early Career Teacher pathway.
It may be through their school having used an outside body to provide all the PE for the school up until this point, that their teachers and themselves as the PE subject leader are deskilled and lack confidence in the teaching of the PE curriculum. The need to ensure that the curriculum as a sound foundation from which, with time to build outward, is key to achieving the sustainability of high-quality PE long-term without the PE and sport premium. If the curriculum is good, enjoyable, sequenced, progressive, inclusive etc. it will encourage more to engage with extra-curricular provision, competition, festivals and exit routes out into community life. It will also inspire more to stay active and to develop a love of being physically active – for life.
We reassure anxious PE leads that there is help to support, guide, and nurture them through the necessary processes, providing them with the knowledge and understanding to sustain this whole subject improvement and that it is okay to say “No” at times to work which detracts from that. True systemic change takes time and focus and we help create an appropriate action plan with them. When a school makes the decision to focus on PE or to move back to having it’s own staff teaching all the PE at a school it can often be a ‘quick’ decision – the impact of which can leave the PE leader feeling a whole variety of emotions!
If you feel that the role is over-whelming you, or that you simply can’t see where to start in terms of improving the teaching and learning of PE, the outcomes for pupils, then please talk to us. We can listen and offer free advice, point you to where you can access support and guidance as well as reassure you – especially that you are not alone in the way that you feel!
We can also help you to formalise a rationale on what to say “No!” to in order to manage the role, or rather making it more manageable! How to have difficult conversations with senior managers about exactly what is needed and that how to effect systemic change in the subject.
We do have CPD courses available which will guide you through the role, step-by-step with unlimited support. These courses are fully accredited and lead to a significant boost in your confidence and competence as well as a national qualification in leadership and management for you. They are available and details are on our website – but this is far more than trying to push our products and services, this increase in PE leaders feeling stressed is a genuine concern to someone who has been involved in PE for over 35 years.
We as a company, only focus on the curriculum because we believe every child should have the entitlement to a high-quality PE experience which inspires all pupils to succeed and achieve. If you are feeling anxious, overwhelmed or unclear how to ensure high quality PE outcomes for all your pupils – get in touch, talk to us and let us try to ease your anxiety and hopefully provide some clarity. If, and only if appropriate, we will also chat about our own support and products to help you but we passionately believe that NO primary PE subject leader should be left feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious, unsupported, or unclear what to do in their role. We are here to help – after all, if we can help you, you can help the pupils to achieve more in and through PE, school sport and physical activity. Everyone wins. Simples!

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