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Building a stronger PE and School Sport Network for 'Successful Futures'

Cardiff Metropolitan PE Conference Wales 2017 - #PECWales2017

Building on the insight and recommendations of Professor Graham Donaldson in his published report Successful Futures: Independent Review of Curriculum and Assessment Arrangement in Wales (February 2015), where he conducted a fundamental review of Foundation Phase to Key Stage 4 in Wales, Cardiff Metropolitan University (www.cardiffmet.ac.uk | @cardiffmet), School of Sport and Education assembled practicing Physical Education teachers & lecturers from Primary, Secondary and Further Education institutions across Wales to provide insight into the future of PE following Curriculum Review in the near future.

The aim of the conference, to future proof PE and the pupils it engages, by not only engaging their physical skills, but to develop them emotionally (motivation & confidence) and cognitively (knowledge and understanding) to value sport and physical activity and maintain an enthusiasm toward active participation in physical activity or sport for life, supporting their physical literacy journey (www.physicalliteracyjourney.wales).

Following an insightful and engaging opening keynote from Sport Wales (www.sport.wales | @sport_wales) CEO, Sarah Powell (@SPcawl10) in which Sarah eloquently outlined the challenges Wales face for the future and the value sport and physical activity has in alleviating these challenges. Delegates were directed to a range of workshops throughout the day focussing on practical CPD opportunities in a wide range of activities, Physical Literacy Programme for Schools (PLPS), engaging with the Digital Competence Framework (DCF) and Sharing Good Practice.

As with any conference, the value truly comes with being able to share learning experiences with each other and stimulate conversations during appropriate networking opportunities. #PECWales2017 was no different, with an array of organisations made available to delegates during the Market Place experience. This is where my game heats up! Being able to speak with and upskill educational practitioners was one of the perks of this experience for me. Wearing a dual branded cap for Sport Wales and UK Coaching (@_UKCoaching), I was able to share insightful experiences with the delegates and offer tangible resources for them to take away and deploy into practice.

My conversations revolved around two main themes:

  1. How can I improve my knowledge and understanding of how to implement physical literacy in my environment?
  2. Our school utilises a PE provider to cover some lessons, how do I ensure this is an appropriate approach.

Ok, so dealing with conversation #1 was interesting. Not only was it an introduction to relevant resources and support material, but it was also a conversation around the appropriateness of physical literacy with older students. Having had a background in NGB sport, I can confirm that one of the biggest grumbles emanating from the emerging talent and elite side of any sport is that too much work has to be carried out at a “remedial” level to maximise performance movement. Interventions, like teaching someone to run properly or move sideways effectively are simple enough, but they take time. The earlier the journey of development starts, the more fruitful it becomes for the athlete or student. So when convincing PE teachers that physical literacy is an intervention mechanism for all stages, it begins to hit home when evidence can be cited about its impact on 30-40 year olds. Physical Literacy is about stage, not age!

Sport Wales has deployed a suite of resources to assist in the development of physical literacy, the first introduction being the Physical Literacy Journey or PLJ. Follow the link to have a look for yourself (www.physicalliteracyjourney.wales). The challenge on this resource is the imagery in convincing practitioners in older age bands to adopt its principles. My simple view is look past the imagery and pick out and adapt the activities and messages for your audience. Secondly the Dragon Tracker 2 App (available from iTunes and Google Play) provides a simple yet efficient engagement to monitor the development of your students alongside their physical literacy journey. With easy creatable groups and personal profiles, with a little time invested, a whole school approach could quickly be instigated to encourage a more physically literate Wales in our school age generations.

So on to my second conversation and dealing with external PE providers. External PE provision is becoming a more and more acknowledged form of delivering a PE curriculum in some areas, either through private providers or NGB or local authority community coaches or officers. It allows for a specialist sport/physical activity deliverer to take a class or series of classes whilst freeing up the class teacher to engage in more administrative activities. The questions posed to me is how do I know this is an effective experience? For me, there are 3 parts to this:

  1. Are the providers suitably trained to deliver what they say they can delivery? Every institute will carry out its own due diligence, but don’t be afraid to question the coaches directly, as they are the face:face engagement with your students. The Welsh Sports Association created the Minimum Standards of Deployment for Wales which details some of the key questions to get across for each sport that could engage your school. This revolves around minimum training, suitable experience and further development that each NGB recommends. It is a simple tool to use and ideal for institutions and practitioners alike to be on the same page. It can be found here: http://wsa.wales/our-services/sporting-workforce/
  2. The second consideration is to be carried out during and after the experience the coach has provided – Reflective questions to gauge the experience as “successful”. Success can only be defined by the deploying institution. Here are some example questions to consider:
    1. Has it been meaningful for the students?
    2. Was the coach engaging?
    3. Did they hit the right messages?
    4. Did they exhibit the right attitude?
    5. Did they create an environment in which the student can explore, succeed, fail and learn?
    6. Were they able to engage in any cross curricular themes such as literacy, numeracy or Digital Competency Framework?
    7. Have the children learned and experienced the sport or physical activity and would they wish to do it again or take it up beyond school PE?
  3. The final consideration to make is toward the teacher / lecturers experience. Any PE curriculum provider should be deployed with dual purpose; yes to engage the students but also to inspire the teacher / lecturer. Could the PE teacher deliverer a similar session with the same confidence? Are they comfortable with the themes of the activity or sport? Are they technically sound? In short, is the PE teacher developing their relevant sport specific understanding to be able to deliver sessions to make the initiative sustainable? UK Coaching have a raft of resource to support these discussions. The most applicable as a starting point would be the Schools Tool Kit. More information can be found on how you can assess your PE provision at the following link: https://www.sportscoachuk.org/site-tools/about-uk-coaching/coaching-schools-portal

This was a truly worthwhile and enjoyable experience that left me this final consideration: What more can be done to engage practitioners in the field of PE, sport and physical activity to do more, be more and achieve more?

I don’t have all the answers, but I will endeavour to engage with those at the coalface, to learn and understand more about the sector and strive to ensure sport and physical activity is the best it can be in Wales and able to inspire an active nation.

Dan Owens, Coaching Advisor (Wales), UK Coaching

Follow: @dan_owens9


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