What’s an academic sports coach? This is what I would call a teacher, from outside the PE Department, who runs a competitive sports team. (PE colleagues, I’m not saying we aren’t academic teachers, but it’s how I make the distinction. If you know of a better way to describe a teacher who coaches then please let me know). I admire them and think they are role models to the children, especially to young males.
Now for a long time, running teams was something that was just an expectation. It was built on the goodwill of the staff. Excellent way of building relationships with the students, outside of the classroom that would help you in the classroom. Lots of benefits for the children in sports, get involved. However I think how education is changing we might need to review this.
Let’s take Paul as a case study. Paul has a 1st Class degree in chemistry from Bristol and teaches GCSE and A Level biology as well as chemistry and is on a 85% timetable. He also runs a rugby team, for many of the reasons above, but mainly because he believes that sport and academia go hand in hand. He played rugby at a good level at University and now runs triathlons. He quite clearly has a holistic view to education that I wholeheartedly support.
However let us break his sporting commitments down:
Monday after school practice – 1.5 hours
Thursday after school practice – 1.5 hours
Team Selection, communicating with parents, chasing boys and other administrational tasks required for running a team – 1 hour
Saturday fixture – on average 5 hours (this takes into account setting up equipment, hosting, warming up, coaching, refereeing, dealing with injuries, parents and having to go to away fixtures).
Mid week fixture – on average 3 hours as sometimes this can be organised in lesson time (once every three weeks).
So this first term is 15 weeks – 70 hours coaching
10 weekend fixtures – 50 hours
5 mid week fixtures – 15 hours
So even underestimating Paul’s contribution to school sport he puts in 135 hours in the first term. That’s 3 weeks of work at 45 hours (which in my mind is the same as working through his half term and Christmas holidays). Paul doesn’t complain, he gets on with it, but people like Paul are a dying breed. 10 years ago in my school there were over 20 teachers like Paul, now there is only 3. One member of staff is in his second year and is already finding the pressures of his day to day job very demanding and has already informed me he won’t be running a team next year. This story is being told repeatedly to me by colleagues in other schools we play against. I’m worried in some cases competitive school sport could disappear. Goodwill is an asset that once lost will never be got back. Relying on it to deliver any programme, without valuing the person giving it, is like building castles on the sand.
My union gives advice to schools about teachers who run extra-curricular activities and believes they should be remunerated for their efforts. I think the time of goodwill is potentially over. Teachers have been constantly asked to do more and more, pick up more roles of responsibility within a students life and to deliver better grades. Paying a teacher to run an extra-curricular activity isn’t going to solve this problem. Workload needs to be tackled at the highest level. However some form of pay or time allowance will show that what they provide is valued. I think paying for coaching qualifications and giving time to do them also shows that what they do is valued. Current practice usually has this fall to the individual teacher.
Perhaps I’m approaching this all wrong. Perhaps there is no longer a place for extra-curricular provision in schools. Perhaps we should just be focusing on the grades. Bogged down under pointless paperwork, constant marking and work scrutiny, performance related pay, before school and after school interventions for GCSE and A-Level subjects it will always be the ‘extras’ that go first. Not just sport, but also drama, debating, art, music and dance may potentially disappear from enrichment provision. The fact that we are now seeing a marginalised curriculum, especially at 6th Form, where is the breadth in education going to come from? However If sport along with other extra-curricular activities are important for a child’s education and development, how are we going to provide those opportunities? Goodwill?