Steve McQuaid talks about SQS
Steve McQuaid, Head of Coach Education and Development at sports coach UK, is a passionate advocate of the SQS.
He turns what can seem a very complex subject, with numerous background documents, acronyms of sporting bodies, awarding bodies and funding agencies into a simple end goal - making people 'the best that they can be' within the sports coaching environment, and providing the tools for them to do that.
In simple terms, and when it comes to coaching, what is the SQS all about?
The Sector Qualifications Strategy, in terms of coaching and sport, is all about developing the right qualification. It's about making sure delivery is right for the coaches, and it's about making sure we are funding the right qualification.
This is 'phase two' if you like, it's building on the UK Coaching Certificate and formalises the sector with a common structure.
What approach has been taken on how to do it?
The important thing is through working with key partners such as the governing bodies and the Sector Skills Council, SkillsActive.
There are the three strands to look at - Qualification, Delivery and Funding. This is where I could get the Venn diagrams out, and we see areas which overlap!
For the Qualification it is about working with sports and awarding bodies.
With Delivery, sometimes we also need the ability to think outside the box, to innovate, and delivery will also involve working with further and higher education. When it comes to Funding, we are really looking at accessing as much funding as possible. We have the attitude that if someone wants to work with us to develop coaches and coaching, then we are keen to work with you!
So how have you been getting on, and what’s next?
We're looking at moving from a relatively fragmented approach to becoming more structured, more aligned, and using economies of scale across sports and sectors. We’re looking for those natural crossovers.
We know that time is moving on and if the focus for 2009/10 has been the development of the qualifications, in 2010/11 we shift the focus to the delivery and the funding.
If this is a scheme that is based upon harmonising and making simpler the award levels, about participants gaining credits to reach higher levels of awards, and gaining units of qualification, what’s the most important thing about such a concept?
It’d definitely that we must always remain flexible. It's all about the coaches. The governing bodies will drive the developments and the communication. It's about making everything more 'fit for purpose' and in a way that's easier to understand.
Credits are earned for coaching, and credits for gaining knowledge, but we need to be flexible in how different people learn. We're looking at e-learning as part of this too. But there has got to be a differentiation of acquisition of knowledge - which might be gained in a classroom environment or at a computer. But then there needs to be the application and practice... and gaining feedback.
A large part of any system is for us to have self-reflective coaches, and for them to want to be the best that they can be.
The opportunity to develop coaching education and knowledge in a way that's right for coaches is groundbreaking for education. This framework will accredit coaches on a learning experience.
With your background of working in swimming, tennis and further education, what are the things which you are excited by with this?
Sports, and indeed whole sectors, can work together. There will be economies of scale, and of course the shared knowledge.
Coaching is coaching, but of course the context can be different. There are similarities in some sports - they can work together and make the most of working together. But the sport itself is sovereign - the governing bodies decide what is right for them. For example in racket sports there will always be some core concepts.
How will you know if the strategy is a success?
It's the sports and coaches themselves which will indicate if things are working. In the development of coaches we say you need thousands of hours to become an 'expert'. So when it comes to delivery, and whether we've got it right... we may not find out for years!
The system's 'checks and balances' will come, again, from the sports themselves.
We will be constantly monitoring and evaluating. Both the impact - on performances, and the fidelity - in other words, are we doing what we said we'd be doing.
So what’s the key word in the whole strategy?
For me it’s the flexibility. I've got to re-iterate, it's an opportunity for coaches. If they want to develop and evolve, they can. If they want to remain at a level, then they can.
It's an exciting time and we'll continue to engage.