Intervention seems to be the rage at the moment, at least it is a buzzword in my school. It stems from ensuring pupils make the required progress and meet targets set. As teachers we are supposed to know the current attainment level of our students and ensure our teaching gets the required amount of sub-levels towards the overall target. Or that students are working consistently at the level (or beyond in some cases) predicted for GCSE and A-Levels. If through this consistent monitoring we observe students that are failing to do this, we are meant to intervene. An intervention is then a deliberate action or involvement that is meant to solve the problem or at least stop it getting worse.
Last year at school during a Head of Department meeting we were ask to brain storm ideas that could be used as possible interventions. This was what my group (Head of English, German and Economics) came up with.
After sharing ideas we were expected to then go back and write a departmental policy on intervention strategies for our students, with a particular focus on Year 11, 12 and 13. This caused some considerable grumblings and stress. English starting running morning classes before school for students who looked like they would struggle to meet grades, Economics ran four 3 hour revision sessions for A-Level during the Easter Holidays, Chemistry had catch up classes after school for both coursework and examination preparation. My colleagues went above and beyond to intervene and try to ensure their students got the best results they could. They were rewarded with the best set of GCSE and AS results the school as ever had. The most successful intervention was Senior Leadership mentoring Year 11 students who had been picked out to under perform in at least 50% of their GCSE’s. They met fortnightly for 45 minutes on Monday morning, communicated directly with their parents and assisted them in all aspects of classroom work, homework, coursework, revision and also trying to have a balanced lifestyle.
It obviously has had a great effect on results across the school, but maybe not on the health, wellbeing and mental state of the teachers that are constantly being asked to go the ‘extra mile’. It must be difficult to do that when being asked to run a marathon everyday. Also one of the first thing teachers give up to run ‘interventions’ is extra-curricular, but I think that may be for another time and post. What the point is of this post is: could intervention work for Core PE with a specific focus on improving confidence, ability and the health and well-being of a student, with the ultimate goal to engage in a active lifestyle?
What would an ‘Intervention’ look like in Core PE?
The 3 main main areas that I feel affect students enjoyment and participation in PE (particularly at Years 7, 8 and 9) that are directly related to health and fitness are:
- Poor strength, especially core and upper body strength – gymnastics, dance, swimming, HRF becomes very difficult for them
- A lack of aerobic fitness – inability to jog 400m or swim a length prevents them from engaging in lots of activities
- Under developed fundamental motor skills – probably the biggest issue we have with Year 7s
The other area that we are lucky enough to provide in our curriculum is swimming and other water based activities such as water polo, basic life-saving and also water survival. Therefore an extra intervention I would want to run would be:
- Being a non swimmer – becoming more and more prevalent in Year 7, which means they don’t have access to an excellent activity to stay fit an healthy.
Taking a look at the Long Term Athlete Development plan that was first proposed by Dr. Istvan Balyi the Fundamental Stage of a child’s physical education is recommended for ages 5 to 9. Over half the children at my school arrive at the age of 11 without many of these in place. Then putting them into an environment of competition without rectify these serious deficiencies in their physical education is only going to further isolate them from engaging in physical activity.
As I discussed in a previous post, I would like to get away from a ‘doing curriculum’ to a ‘knowing curriculum’. Therefore trying to rectify these serious deficiencies within curriculum time is going to be problematic. I also think that these students would require 1 to 1 support from a teacher. Trying to encourage these students to join in extra-curricular clubs is a possibility, but it’s generally these students that are the ones who tend to stay away. Believing themselves not capable and especially if they have to compare themselves to boys who can do things they can’t. What I’m considering is the setting up of ‘specialist clubs’, that the whole department attend, and that focus on improving these deficiencies, building confidence and trying to give these students the feeling of success in a physical environment.
Identifying the students wouldn’t be too hard, but getting the approach right I think is. My preferred approach would to write a letter to parents explaining that we feel that their son has a particular weakness and that we are offering a specialist club to help improve it. Attached to the letter would be information about why that area is important for health and developing an active lifestyle so we try to educate parents at the same time as well. We hope that our final outcome from being involved in this club would be an increase in competence, confidence, understanding on how to further develop and get involved in a healthy and active lifestyle outside of the classroom.
These specialist clubs would be run before school or during lunch and start after half term when initial observations could be made. Students that attend would have an assessment of current level in that area and a personal programme of a development written for them. I think an 8 week period, with an assessment made at the end of it, with results sent to both the pupil and parent with further recommendations is a minimum expectation. The club would run till the end of the year, like a drop in clinic, where and when pupils might require extra support. It would always be optional and never compulsory.
The clubs I would want to offer are:
Strength and Conditioning Club – looking at building core stability, being able to support body weight, simple methods of training children can do at home and the reasons why developing strength is important.
Aerobic Conditioning Club – looking at different methods students could build aerobic fitness through running, swimming, rowing and cycling, how to try fit in aerobic activity into their daily lives and why developing aerobic fitness is important
Skills Club – looking at developing fundamental movements such as running, jumping, hopping and skipping as well as hand to eye and hand to foot co-ordination through fun games and SAQ
Water Confidence – a club that looks not to teach swimming, but build water confidence, buoyancy and also share the health benefits and enjoyment that can come through swimming.
The key issue I have, (other than giving my department more work, but if its important enough I need to drop something else they do that isn’t) is that we don’t make it seem like these children are being punished. Associating exercise and punishment is obviously going to be counter productive to what the intervention is actually trying to achieve. I have no doubt of my colleagues ability to approach this in a very supportive and encouraging manner but the initial contact and communication with parents and children would I think be paramount.
Is there anyone else out there who has introduced ‘intervention’ clubs for Core PE? If so how has it impacted on the child’s confidence, ability and willingness to engage in both PE lessons and activity outside of the classroom? Can you give me any advice from going through this process – any recommendations or pitfalls to avoid? Do you think interventions like these would even work? Do you feel a PE Teacher’s time would be better spent providing more varied opportunities of recreational clubs for these students to attend and continue to actively encourage participation in them?
I shall post at Christmas about how we have implemented this programme, but in the meantime I would be very keen to hear from other PE teachers about their feelings and thought on this approach.