Week 6 and 7 – The Winter Olympics

I have decided it’s really hard to find the time to blog regularly. I have had a very busy couple of weeks. The last week of term was pretty manic with prepping year 11 dance revision resources, BTEC marking and sorting stuff for netball and cricket fixtures. My sister then moved in on the Saturday of half term which meant lots of sorting out and house stuff. It’s surprising how long some tasks take. All in and sorted after a few days though and now all settled 🙂 I am a firm believer in having a positive work/life balance and taking half term with actual days off and trying not to do too much work is important and vital to recuperate. 

One thing that has also consumed my life over the past 2 weeks is the Winter Olympics. Sochi 2014 has been amazing and exciting to watch. As a nation who obviously doesn’t have the facilities needed for some of the events, we clearly make the best of what we can. I admire the dedication of the athletes who made it to represent team GB, they did the whole country proud. The amount of hours they spend training and preparing for a two week event doesn’t get broadcast. A lot of work goes in behind the scenes so it is pleasing to see the country get behind people we don’t know yet we pretend we do and feel a sense of achievement with them. 

I think it is really important for children to see the Winter Olympics and to have role models in different sports than usual. In the week before half term, I made a point of showing my tutor group and where possible included some in my lessons to make pupils aware of what other opportunities are out there. Especially as there is a dry ski slope near my school. Not the same as the real thing but if they try it, who knows what might happen. It might spark some new interest or hobby. They seemed to really enjoy watching it or having knowledge of what was happening for team GB. It also shows pupils how interested in sport I am as a teacher and they like to show me that they have a common interest.

One of the events I enjoyed watching the most was the curling. And didn’t we do well. Both the GB women’s and men’s teams came away with medals, and they were very well deserved. The tension whilst watching is incredible, the fact that it takes 10 ends and about 2-3 hours makes it more interesting. It can change so fast too, one mistake and the other team can take advantage. The pressure involved to perform well every shot is immense, especially when there are medals at stake. I hope lots of children across the nation are now inspired to have a go. Although, the main barrier would be geographical location and would involve travelling to Scotland. I believe there is only one curling rink in England which is why all the GB athletes were Scottish. I know I would certainly like to give it a go, it looks fun. Lets hope it inspires more access to the sport in England. 

Lizzy Yarnold winning gold in the skeleton was one of the best moments of Sochi. It was edge of the seat stuff. Watching Amy Williams and Lizzy after was moving. Retaining the Olympic title after 4 years of hard work. It’s brilliant to see when training hard pays off. She went through the ‘Girls for Gold’ programme 5 years ago. I remember that being advertised when I was at University, it’s nice to know they work and produce world class athletes. I think more programmes like that need to be around to enable access to these kind of events for younger children, maybe between the ages of 14-16. It might even inspire more girls to take up a different physical activity. 

The final moment which I think defines character within sport was Elise Christie. Elise is a short track speed skater who competed in 3 events. The 500m, 1000m and the 1500m. I was devastated and heart broken when watching her final event. Having previously been disqualified in both the 500m and the 1500m races she breezed into the semi finals of the 1000m. The mental strength she displayed in this first heat was inspiring. Coming back after 2 penalties already to perform well must be mentally tough, but Elise was up for the challenge. In her semi final she was racing really well until the final corner when it appeared she was taken out by another athlete when she was in a qualifying position. Everyone thought she would progress through to the final anyway. However, the referees seemed the be against her and awarded her with a penalty too. In my personal opinion, I felt this was completely unfair and the wrong decision. The whole country was proud of her efforts and the way she fought back. 2014 seemed not to be her year. It is such a shame that after 4 years of hard work and training, she lost out on a medal due to a referees controversial decision. As an Olympic athlete I know she will fight back. I hope children take her courage and determination and use her as a role model. 

Overall, we have had I think the most successful Winter Olympic campaign. Well done to all of Team GB. It has been most enjoyable and gripping to watch. I am now looking forward to what we can do as a country in the next 4 years to produce more athletes for 2018. What am I going to watch now?

Week 5 – School Sports Funding

Once again a busy week in school. I think almost every teacher will agree when I say I am pretty much ready for half term. This one has been pretty hard going and draining. It is sometimes hard to keep going and be so enthusiastic when you don’t feel 100%. But, needs must, we carry on anyway. There has been a lot of illnesses going around too, luckily I have seemed to escape these. I lame my good nutrition 🙂 

Week 5 has seen many different news stories in education. Michael Gove has been in the news pretty much every day. We have had Ofsted talks (as always), Gove commenting that he wants State schools to be the same as Private schools, in the sense that he doesn’t want to be able to tell which is which and then there was the discipline story. How we need to use old style punishments such as writing lines and laps. Every morning when I get up, I look to Twitter to read these latest stories via @schoolsimprove. The two stories that caught my eye this week can be found here and here.

The first one is about Primary School Sport funding. This week David Cameron announced £750m extra funding would be pledged between now and the year 2020 for primary schools sport. The funding is meant to improve sports lessons, such as paying for specialist coaching, equipment or to help after-school clubs. Now, this is all well and good, and he is right to give head teachers more money for sport, but there is always the worry that it will be used for coaches alone. Primary school teachers need to have an input into how the money is used too. They would benefit from further training and therefore improved confidence in delivering primary school sport. I know it is not all primary teachers who need it, as some feel confident leading PE but there are definitely a large chunk of them. This week as part of a BTEC assessment we have year 5 pupils over. The year 5 teacher really enjoys teaching PE and he said many of the coaches that come in, lead the PE when teachers have their PPA. This might suit the school but the teachers are missing out on seeing some good practice and learning new ideas they can use in their own teaching. This teacher shared the same concerns as me, he wants to lead PE and learn more. In fact he even said if he went into secondary school teaching it would have to be PE. Another worry is that some of the coaches might not be as good as they should be. 

The second article is on Baroness Sue Campbell saying that children are gripped by a ‘crisis of inactivity’. I completely agree with her, there is a crisis and I am seeing more and more a lack of motivation to do sport. She also insisted that lack of exercise was also limiting young people’s “ability to achieve in all areas of school life”, with active pupils more likely to perform in the classroom and show higher levels of self-esteem. As a PE teacher and someone who grew up with sport, I know how positive sport can be. It doesn’t have to just be sport, any sort of physical activity can help you feel good and increase your confidence. The problem is, pupils don’t realise this. They are too busy being self conscious about how they look and what others think of them to see the positive benefits of activity. But that is a different story altogether. 

Hopefully, the funding in primary schools will help increase motivation and activity levels in primary schools and then have a knock on effect into secondary schools over the next few years. I also think health and wellbeing needs to be included too, its not just exercise that will teach them how to have a healthy lifestyle. It needs to be all of it. I guess time will only tell if this has a positive impact on the youngsters. I really hope it does. In the meantime, I will continue trying to encourage secondary pupils to be healthy and get more active. As you can probably understand, it is not an easy thing to do. 

Week 4 – BTEC or GCSE

We have now had 4 weeks at school, and they have been busy as usual of course. The main focus of my last week at school was BTEC. We have options evening coming up after half term and needed to decide as a department which courses to offer to our current year 8 pupils. They start their GCSE courses in year 9. This was a change our head implemented 2 years ago. The reason for this, I believe was to prepare them earlier for their GCSEs and hopefully improve their grades.

I currently teach GCSE PE, BTEC Sport and GCSE Dance. I am a massive fan of teaching exam PE as I like to challenge the pupils and enjoy the theory side of the subject. It tests my memory and knowledge too which I really like.

The BTEC course has changed in the last couple of years. There are now online assessments which are conducted in exam conditions. The current course we teach is the old specification, which is 100% coursework but is the last of it’s kind. In respect of this, I needed to do some research into our options for the new course. There is lots of speculation about BTEC courses and their worth compared with GCSEs. I believe it is a good option for pupils with a lower practical ability in sport. Yes, there is a lot of written work, but it also depends on the units you choose. There are some which include a lot of practical too. It teaches them how to evaluate and explain things in more detail. This is something I think many pupils lack. Their understanding of command words and what they mean. The BTEC helps them understand these and then has a knock on effect with their other subjects. In theory anyway. There are other units that they wouldn’t get to learn about in the GCSE course. It can be a varied course depending on the units you choose. 

Many pupils and parents don’t know he difference between the BTEC and the GCSE, this forms part of the problem. I have read many comments on various forums on peoples opinions on them. Comments like “BTEC’s aren’t as good as GCSE’s.” “BTEC’s are regarded as lesser of a qualification.” “How can a BTEC be worth 2 GCSE’s?” These are all valid opinions but said with a lack of understanding. Many schools now offer BTEC qualifications to enable lower end students to achieve. This may not have been possible in a GCSE. It can also enable students who are able to gain a higher qualification than they would in a GCSE. In PE, the GCSE course is 60% practical and 40% theory. For the pupil that really enjoys PE and might want to become a coach or a leader of some sort, yet lacks skills on a practical level, therefore their 60% practical grade wouldn’t be as high as they would like or need, then the BTEC could be perfect for them. It allows them to lead sessions, plan events, evaluate their own and others work in detail, learn about sports development and psychology. These are things you wouldn’t get to do with the GCSE course. As teachers we should be developing pupils and preparing them for their life after education. This gives some pupils a different avenue to follow and allows them to succeed. This is why I think it is an important course to be offered and children need to choose which course they are best suited to wisely. 

Having researched which BTEC course to choose for September; the award, certificate, extended certificate of the diploma, we opted for the one which would challenge the pupils but not provide an unrealistic amount of work. The certificate has 8 units which can be spread over the 3 years. The idea then is to start the course with study skills and improve their understanding of command words before starting any of the units. The next task was to choose the individual units to teach. 2 of then are externally assessed, this provides an extra challenge for the lower ability pupils who struggle with recall. We decided to add in as many units with practical elements as possible. Things like leading a session, fitness for sport, planning an event as these can give them different skills to prepare them for college/work. Some of these are also very different to GCSE PE. 

The next step unfortunately is to attend a course and then re write all of the assignments for each unit. This is something that of course will take lots of time. But I know it’ll be worth it to provide a rounded curriculum in PE. Who knows how long the BTEC will be about, but for now, it is a valid qualification which should be seen as an equivalent to GCSE. If it isn’t, then what was the point in creating it up in the first place?