Inspire a Generation – The Legacy of 2012 - Further Thoughts
Posted: Mon, 20 Aug 2012 10:03
Inspire a Generation – The Legacy of 2012
Much has been said of what the legacy should be from the London Olympic Games and how it should be developed. The motto of the games has been "Inspire a Generation". From the moment the opening ceremony introduced not only the world, but a generation of young people to an abridged version of our history, to Sir Steve Redgrave passing the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron on to 7 young athletes, this Olympic Games has captured the imagination of the next generation as well as everyone else. Listening to phone-ins parents are wanting to take children to sports clubs. They want their children to swim, canoe and run. Boxing and taekwondo, sports only ever famous for a few day every 4 years, are gaining more publicity than ever before. As the Olympics draw to a close the question is now being asked – what next?
Education is once again being used as the political football as the games were ending and will continue to be so as we move on. Should there be a mandatory 2 hours of PE for all at every level? Should it be a set government target? How many schools were actually achieving it when it was a target? Having been a School Sports Co-ordination for 4 years and a Head of PE for 7 years when it came to filling out the surveys and questionnaires they were never done accurately. Two hours a week of Physical Education became, do you have that time allocation on your timetable? Who factored in 40 minutes of that 2 hours was spent registering, changing and then the time students were not actually active due to the nature of the Physical Education curriculum? Teachers are under so much scrutiny to meet OfSted criteria during their lessons. Statistics will show that a high percentage of schools, both primary and secondary were showing 2 hours of provision for Physical Education but which schools actually delivered 2 hours of active, high quality Physical Education.
There is more and more emphasis now, through changing OfSted criteria, on showing the progress of students towards their levels in curriculum time. Whilst this is useful in academic subjects (possibly a whole new argument) is this helping or hindering practical subjects such as Physical Education? Does there need to be an alternative way by which these lessons are judged? A system by which participation, enjoyment, skill acquisition, teamwork and analysis are looked at rather than progress towards a falsely generated target. These targets set for, and not by, secondary school teachers who are specialists in the subject as a result of judgements made by non-specialist primary school teachers who, quite frankly, do not get the training required to make accurate assessments, or on how to deliver the required skills. Physical Education is a core subject, it needs to remain a core subject. The enjoyment needs to be brought back into delivering it for teachers and participating in it for students.
I now watch PE lessons from my classroom window having given up teaching the subject in favour of Maths. Not once in 2 years have I regretted that decision. PE is simply no longer a vehicle for pure enjoyment, an escapism for those students who struggle with the academic side of life. There are those students that refuse to access the subject but I would maintain that if there was a flexibility in the way schools approached the curriculum and a way the government became less prescriptive about how to deliver this curriculum, it would be possible to design a curriculum that hits the mark for a far greater percentage of young people. There are of course schools that do this. They need to be found and tapped into. They need to be used as models of excellence. Legacy through schools will not be achieved by anything other than young people first and foremost enjoying their experiences of sport.
Where do we go and how do we achieve this? Three main words have been banded about; competition, time and funding. All 3 are important but we should not become hung up on these factors.
Competition is vitally important, yes. It teaches students about winning and losing and how to accept both those things in the right way. It identifies those that might have the potential to develop into something more but it also has the potential to destroy. There needs to be a fine balance struck between when competition is important and when it's not. if it is not the right level of competition at the right time young people will turn their backs and reject sport and competition. You cannot have everyone competing on the same playing field. In a sprint race in a primary school sports day you can build in a seeding system. If students have practiced the events before hand, use the times to place students in appropriate races. Inclusion and competition. Don't just focus on the running events, use throws as well. These appeal to young people with different body shapes. It's time for teachers to start being creative about how they introduce competition and not just use competition for the best, select few in any one sport.
How can we make best use of time needs to be another question. For all of us there are never enough hours in the day whatever line of work or lifestyle we choose to adopt. There will never be the facility to give students the number of hours that there ideally needs to be in the curriculum to deliver the programme for Physical Education and sport that we'd all like to see. Do all students need to do 2 hours in school or would 1 hour of targeted, enjoyable activity for some be better than 2 hours stood out on a playing field in the middle of winter trying to keep warm? For those keen would it be possible to give them 3 or maybe 4 hours within the curriculum to promote the talents and excellence they may be showing. Then there's promoting and developing extra-curricular time for different sports. Take a small school with only 25 staff in total and 2 or 3 PE teachers that try and develop an extra-curricular programme for 400-500 students. This simply can't be done, even on the levels of goodwill that most PE teachers choose to adopt. One of the reasons I gave up PE was that I simply couldn't do 4 nights a week and a half day on the weekend anymore whether it was coaching, driving a minibus or officiating. Those that do, it's a real sacrifice and achievement but often to the detriment of other aspects of life.
Competition and Time both require one thing to help make them happen and grow, usually funding. In times when budgets are cut or scrapped there are no easy solutions. The majority of sports we have seen in the Olympics need specialist equipment, or where there is equipment it costs money to get out and use it. It would be great to say that all establishments sailing, canoeing, gymnastics have to provide free or minimal cost access to all under 16 but training centres, coaches and facilities all cost money. It costs money to do the coaching courses to become a coach, sometimes vast soles of money. I have been looking into doing my Level 2 football qualification and it's around £300. This is the wealthiest Governing Body in the country and to get to level 2 I would have to pay £300. For the things I would use it for, I would never see that back. Thought needs to be put into the financial accessibility for both young people wishing to participate and those adults wishing to volunteer in order to create future generations of participators and Olympians.
Finally, something is going very right with the way elite sport in some sports are being developed and managed. Something seems to be going wrong with widening the participation base amongst young people. Without the participators now there will not be the expected number of medals in 8-12 years time. By the time Rio comes around there will still be the results of funding and training opportunities London 2012 provided. This must not hide the fact that more needs to be done for future games. The public has tasted Olympic success to extraordinary degrees. The expectation will be that this carries on.
Where do we go with young people though? We need to ensure that Physical Education in schools is about using the time available as actively as possible. We need to ensure that sport and PE in schools is first and foremost enjoyable and about achieving an individual's best. Primary school PE needs to be about gaining basic skills. It needs to be about agility, balance, co-ordination and not about sport specific activities, certainly when talking about games and team games. Secondary school PE needs to be a continuation of this but with sport focus.
There will need to be a change in mindset about which sports are done in secondary schools. Do students need to play football in lessons? Is there not a saturation of the game? Do students learn anything in football lessons? In my opinion, that of a footballer, it should be saved for extra-curricular clubs and out of school clubs. We need to develop other alternatives, new team games that students will find different, interesting and stimulating. We then need to provide routes for students to progress these experiences outside of school. Why can't students play handball or volleyball to develop their team skills instead of football?
Until there is a change in how the curriculum is designed, delivered and assessed for PE there will always be a large number of students turned off sport. Until an adequate affordable volunteer coaching programme there will never be the opportunities available for all to continue these new opportunities outside of schools and into adult life. it is possible for initial funding to provide future sustainability. This needs to be seriously looked at. The British people love sport, viewing figures and attendances at The Games proved it. It's time to tap into it, broaden the horizon and show that sport in this country isn't just about football on all fronts; schools, teachers, students, media coverage, sporting role models and spectator education.
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