Sport and Sanctions

Today I received this email:

Dear Sporticus,

I wanted to speak to you at break but got sidetracked with trips and other things.

Head of Year and I met Bob and his parents this morning regarding his academic achievements and concerns about his lack of organisation and commitment in general.

It has been agreed that if Bob does not attend the biology clinics offered to him once a week he will not be allowed to participate in the weekend matches and rugby fixtures organised by the school.

We all understand the implication and consequences this can have for the whole rugby team but for the moment this is one of the sanctions that the Bob’s parents have decided to put in place.

Hopefully he will be with you this Saturday and every time the boys are playing … I just wanted to let you know.

Thanks you for your understanding.

Form Tutor

My initial thought was ‘Ok, I want to support my colleagues and Bob in his academic studies’, but did not respond to it immediately. Having just re-read it and had time to think about it I’m not sure that thought of support has been returned by my colleagues.

Firstly when has it been acceptable professional practice to withdraw someone from extra-curricular without informing the person in charge prior to the decision being made? Surely the act of being professional would actually involve that person within the decision making process. From my point of view it makes a bigger impact to the child if the person who is in charge of the extra-curricular activity is there showing a united front that this is the right decision. Now I know I wasn’t at the meeting, and the school day is a hectic world, but surely professional courtesy dictates a decision shouldn’t be reached without my general consent. Therefore the decision should have been delayed, until my approval had been sought?

Secondly when has it become acceptable practice to withdraw someone from playing sport, outside of curriculum time, as a consequence for their lack of work in curriculum time? Therefore if a student is not performing in A-Level PE am I allowed to withdraw them from an art trip or play rehearsal without consultation? The only time I personally feel this is truly acceptable would be if they were missing a lesson to engage in an extra-curricular activity. Even if that is the case I would still seek the approval and support of my colleagues before hand.

Thirdly I think they miss the bigger picture. How is withdrawing someone from playing sport on a Saturday morning going help improve their ‘lack of organisation and commitment’? Do I believe that the decision to withdraw Bob from sport is an effective sanction? Yes, at times withdrawing someone the privilege to represent their school is a hugely effective sanction and I will use it to help support my colleagues when I believe it is the right course of action. Do I think withdrawing him from sport is going to help improve his commitment or his organisation? No. I’m hoping there are other support mechanisms put into place for Bob other than withdrawing him from an activity that supposedly teaches discipline and commitment.

Next if I was involved in the decision I could discuss with them the fact that Bob does GCSE PE. Currently this is heavily practical based and rugby is one of Bob’s sports that he will be assessed in. Playing regularly is important to ensure he gets the best possible grades. Withdrawing him from playing rugby because he isn’t attending biology clinic is only borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. It doesn’t truly rectify the issues that Bob has and helps to ensure he gets the best grades in all his subjects. Where is the support?

Finally I think my colleagues are missing the emotional aspect from my point of view. As coach of Bob’s rugby team I spend 4.5 hours training him in my own time every week. On top of that I spend every Saturday morning with him and the rest of his team from now till December. This is usually another 5 to 7 hours of my own time I give up for him. This doesn’t take into account the hours of organisation of catering, transport, referees and contact with parents a fixture takes. The message that it clearly sends me that this is all a waste of my time if a child is struggling within school academically. If at the first sign of underperformance in lessons, withdrawal for sport is used as a consequence, then there is obviously no place for competitive sport in the co-curriculum?

So what am I going to do? I’m going to support my colleagues in their decision. Even though I fundamentally disagree with it, that they are potentially affecting his GCSE PE grade because of it and they have deeply upset me on a personal level. I shall speak to Bob individually and explain to him that I support the decision and that he needs to make effort in biology clinic and with his organisation if he is to be deserving of the privilege of representative competitive sport at my school. However I am unsure whether to ask to meet my colleagues and explain the above to them in a calm manner?

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7 thoughts on “Sport and Sanctions

  1. I agree with you about the consultative aspect of this. They should have consulted before this sanction was put in place. This in itself provides you the ethical platform to turn down the sanction.

    I would also add that situations like this clearly suggest that there is a stratification of importance provided to different forms of learning. Someone clearly thinks that biology ranks highly and sport/PE/Rugby ranks somewhere down the order. Why? Yes because there are exams etc… but learning is learning. I would hazard a guess that this young man Bob shows great commitment to his rugby, works hard, listens and tries his best. Right? Perhaps your biology colleagues should ask themselves why this young man, clearly capable of these behaviours, doesn’t demonstrate them in biology.

    As ever,

    MyPEExam

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    1. It seems to be the teachers involved in making this decision with the pupils have seen sport as a carrot/stick. Perhaps this is what happens when you have run out of options in dealing with a student who doesn’t show they same sort of application in a subject they they show in sport. I don’t think I would ever in public disagree with a colleague who has made a decision, but I think I need to privately explain my thoughts on this approach to dealing with organisational and commitment issues to work. The hierarchy of subjects is always going to be there, what shouldn’t be is how you treat the child or the teacher in that subject.

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  2. This is a great post and one that many of us can identify with. Unfortunately, the increasing pressure to get particular groups of learners to achieve across the curriculum can cause decisions to be made which seem easy, quick wins without considering the big picture.

    As PE teachers, our investment in pupils beyond the curriculum is one of the great things about the job and is built on a huge commitment and trust from both sides. So for someone who knows nothing about what either side has invested into the relationship, to make decisions without any consultation, communication or common courtesy, certainly wouldn’t be welcome.

    As a department we give up four nights a week each and do Saturday fixtures to make sport accessible to so many more pupils, provide opportunities and develop competition within and out of school. We have a significant number of pupils attending practices on a daily basis in a number of sports and like many PE departments, it is something which we, the pupils and school take great pride in.

    You have worked above and beyond many areas within school to build and grow what you have and are respected for it. I’m in agreement with mypeexam, the devaluation of PE over any one subject shouldn’t be so because one is ‘perceived’ to be less academic or important than another and would also question the level of commitment and investment towards the same pupil from the other subject(s).

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    1. I do think this value or ethos comes from the top down. It’s a larger issue within education at the moment and that is what is the purpose or nature of eduction. I suppose as PE teachers we might have a more holistic approach to the purpose, but it does seem that it is beginning to boil down to grades and percentages. A co-curricular of competitive sport, drama, debating and art is being replaced with an intervention curriculum of maths mentoring, biology clinics and catch up classes. The education system I want to be involved in values both, not just pays lip service to one, when the other suffers.

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  3. I personally wouldn’t support that as it goes against everything we work for. Obviously in public you may have to but I would be straight up to whoever made the decision and disagree with them privately. You made the point that what do you do if the kid didn’t play sport in the first place. Just because he plays sport doesn’t then mean it can be used as a punishment when his other teachers can’t be bothered get him to or working hard in the clinic. If he was massively behind on coursework and homework etc then a short term sanction may be justified. Especially if it meant he was missing lessons to play the sport but if he is not then they need to find another way to motivate him.

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    1. Hi and thanks for the post. This is exactly the approach I took today when I finally managed to catch up with my colleagues. In front of the students I showed a united front and explained why I supported the decision. After he left I explained to my colleagues how I was disappointed I wasn’t involved in the process, and that I fundamentally disagree with using withdrawal from sport as a punishment for not attending intervention classes. However if his behaviour is poor such as rude to other pupils or staff then I think I would be more open minded. Perhaps I need to watch Coach Carter again to be more supportive to this idea of using withdrawal from sport as a sanction.

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