Impact takes time and action – so plan for BOTH
I regularly work with primary schools to look at how they are spending, or have spent, their PE Premium funding. This is often, but not exclusively, through our national qualification for Leadership & Management in Primary PE. What is frustrating at times is how little the PE coordinator is involved in or even aware of the financial spend and / or the rationale for the planned use of the ring-fenced PE and sport premium. Far too frequently there is no strategic plan for how the standards in the subject are going to improve.
It is difficult, we have to accept, for schools to be really strategic in their planning when there has been no long term certainty surrounding the funding – and some would argue a lack of guidance and accountability. But schools funding has for many years now been a fluid picture subject to frequent change and affected by, for instance, political intervention – yet schools have committed to long-term improvement plans and strategic planning whole-school.
I encourage our PE Leaders to plan for improvements that they know and see that they need in order to make systemic change to the quality of the provision. Setting out their intent through a strategic 2 – 3 year plan will mean that they are more likely to not only achieve their intentions but that these will be sustainable, embedded and effective. They are also what is needed for teaching, learning, pupil achievement, provision or arguably – all four! Then in their planning, their implementation can be enhanced, supported and indeed accelerated by the substantial investment which the premium brings. You cannot, in my opinion, make whole school improvements which are sustainable in a matter of months, or over a couple of terms. True lasting change – impact, needs time to become established and embedded.
Staff skills audits usually show that colleagues in schools feel most anxious about teaching gymnastics and dance. However, what I frequently see is engagement with initiatives and programmes geared around games and delivered by ‘games’ based coaches. Encouraging learners on our courses to use and reflect on the findings of staff skills audits has been a simple but effective strategy. It cannot of course be effective over a short period of time or be solved with a single twilight CPD. I would argue that in order to ensure that staff feel confident to plan, teach and assess progress in gymnastics that a longer-term strategy is required which supports, nurtures and develops staff confidence and competence to teach this particular area of activity well ensuring that learning is maximised and the greatest impact achieved, maintained and sustained.
On further discussion, staff in primary schools reflect on how little time they have had on teaching PE and as part of that – gymnastics. This impacts upon their confidence and competence to deliver high quality primary curricular gymnastics. Many have never set out their school’s wall-bars or even other pieces of large apparatus (e.g. trestles, movement tables) and admit to feeling extremely apprehensive and even in one case recently, nauseous, throughout the lesson where they did use apparatus. Therefore, at times, some staff become averse to teaching it and opt to do another activity. Schemes of work such as Get Set 4 PE can provide help in the planning and having a clear curriculum map which is supported and monitored by the subject leader is essential. PE and sport premium can play a significant part here in helping to achieve your implementation plans by providing the necessary funding to purchase a scheme of work, to release the subject leader to monitor / team teach and to provide expert curricular CPD to enhance staff confidence and competence.
Providing a strategic plan which tackles this will need to cross academic years and will take several years for teachers and other staff to say that they feel confident and are competent to teach curricular gymnastics – indeed even saying that they enjoy teaching it!
But this is okay, it’s fine to do. Do not be afraid. Why? Because as stated earlier, true change, real sustainable impact, takes time. You are trying to bring about behavioural and attitudinal changes across an institution! Primary schools must in my opinion, be encouraged to plan for effective change first and foremost, to address a specific need or needs as identified through audit and detailed enquiry. Keeping a focus on these planned intentions as set out in your implementation plan will lead to an effective impact. I am of course being very deliberate in my use of the three ‘I’ words – Intent, Implementation and Impact, reflecting the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF 2019). It is however, not just because of the Ofsted framework. But notice that this at this stage doesn’t solely address the terms and conditions of the ring-fenced PE premium. The subject leader needs to be mindful of the current key indicators and governments commitment to school swimming but often these are embedded within what you are trying to achieve – let me exemplify this. In terms of a whole school PE improvement target such as improving the standards of teaching and learning – which lead to increased pupil achievement and outcomes – every child being able to meet and exceed the national curriculum requirements in swimming would just be a totally embedded component.
Evidence, research and practice shows us that bringing about true change in any system, be it in education or business, private or public sector one of the key ingredients of success is time and focus. So, I ask you, has your primary school got a strategic plan that goes beyond and indeed above a simple spending list – one which is based on audited need, curriculum intent, ethos and vision? One which is not simply a compliance document for an annual grant?
Does this plan set out clearly how you will achieve a positive climate and environment for teaching and learning in PE for pupils and staff? Is the focus of your CPD sustained, targeted and monitored to achieve sustainable success? Is there a clear implementation plan and strategy which has collective efficacy? Are you focussed on achieving this and not easily distracted by the proliferation of initiatives, offers and organisations that are raining down on primary schools at the moment?
The purpose of this blog? To try and reassure you that taking your time to make a real change is the right thing to do. To keep a sharp focus on what you are trying to achieve over this time is essential and therefore by default not having 101 ‘things’ on a plan is perhaps a more strategic concept for success. Sure 101 things might happen – but will they be sustainable? Are staff able to maintain them? Are your staff even involved in them in the first place (or are you being done-to)?
If you want support to move from being a ‘PE coordinator’ to a ‘PE Leader’ we can help, its what we do. It doesn’t and can’t happen overnight, however. We can help you formulate your school’s vision which then allows you to set out your Intent; build an effective Implementation plan which provides time to embed and sustain the desired changes and to monitor the Impact to see and measure how successful your plan is being. This is different to your Reporting Template on PE and sport premium spend but critically, it should and must be linked in order to provide a comprehensive, joined-up strategic plan to make a real lasting improvement – a fitting Legacy for the rationale for the funding in the first place.
How can we help? Well, we offer a national qualification in Leadership and Management in Primary PE. We use our expertise to support you, over time through sustained learning, coaching and mentoring. This can be accessed and delivered in two ways – firstly by attending a course that we are running or facilitating but there may not be one in your area. Therefore, your second option is to access our unique 1:1 delivery route. This sees us coming to YOU in YOUR school and spending quality time in taking you through the qualification, getting to know your school well and being in the very best place to advise, guide and support you and your colleagues. I personally, passionately believe in our vision to try and ensure every primary school has a well-trained, knowledgeable subject leader who can drive PE in their school. Is this YOU?
Take a look at our national qualification course by clicking the link below:
(Other schemes of work are available)
Martin Radmore – national award winner for Advocacy & Influence (afPE) and former county PE Adviser for Norfolk. Director of VisionED – the Primary PE Experts.