The practical value of time in PE

There were two moment in the last week that have upset me.

Firstly I received back the results of a YST PE and School Sport survey I had filled in. 1946 primary and secondary schools had completed it, and the document compared my school results to the County and National averages.

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The results in the document were very favourable. We offer more extra curricular provision and also more inter and intra school competitive sport than both the county and national averages, with less full time staff and outside coaches. I felt this was a remarkable achievement for my department. It also highlighted some areas of improvement,  specifically that our inclusion into these sports isn’t as good as it could be and we could better develop our pathway links to clubs and community.

I felt some praise from SLT for my staff within the department would be a great motivator, especially in the middle of what I personally believe is the hardest half term in the academic year. I sent an email, with the document as attachment and detailed both the positives and areas we could look to develop. I also put in a huge hint that the staff in my department should be praised for their efforts. Not one member of SLT has yet said anything to them. However the Headmaster did thank me for the document verbally. He then asked me to make time to see him in the future to discuss the one thing I had failed to notice would be more important to him:

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At KS 3 our students get significantly more time than both the County and National Averages. He said nothing else and walked off. My only thought is that he wants to broach the subject of reducing time in PE at KS3 for another subject. It has left a very sour taste in my mouth and isn’t something I want to share with my department.

The second was an article from the Mail on Sunday last week, that was shared on Twitter by Mr Morton @amorganPE.

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That PE is a ‘joke’ in the state sector and that students were only getting 9 minutes of exercise in a 45 minute lesson.

It kicked off quite a debate about how our subject is viewed and managed, poor practice in our subject, the reliability and validity of the research and the place of PE within schools along with many topics. When I first read it, I couldn’t believe it. After engaging in a twitter debate about it I just got angry and had to leave. However once I had calmed down and managed to become rational it made me think about my own practice. How much time ‘doing’ PE do my students actually get?

The excellent Michael Davison (@davisonpe who I strongly suggest you follow on twitter as he tweets excellent practical ideas and common sense about PE in school) shared the following idea:

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I hadn’t done this since my PGCE year and I thought it was an excellent suggestion. It also might help prepare me for my meeting with my Headmaster with regards to curriculum time for PE at KS3.

Now before I share my findings of my previous week I need to give you a little background. We have four 1 hour 20 minute lessons a day (and I love this for PE). We have a very small gym, a small swimming pool and one grass field on site. We use another schools facilities for certain activities and we have 3 grass pitches away from the school where we need to cross two main roads to get there. I also haven’t included my A-Level PE or KS 3 Philosophy lessons.

I used a non-doer to help me and where I didn’t have one I tried to time myself. The timings are as accurate as I could make them but this is always difficult when teaching (This is the reason why some of the averages don’t add up). With regards to the time for ‘physical activity’ I tried to only record time when I felt all students were active, but this was subjective. They obviously weren’t fitted with heart rate monitors and GPS trackers, so whilst I think they may be active, I wouldn’t have conclusive data they they were.

Here are my findings:

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My averages for the week:

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My initial thoughts on the data are:

1. Is there a way to reduce walking time to offsite activities, with out increasing risk for students, to guarantee more time being ‘physically active’?

2. Should I count the walking to and from offsite activities as ‘physical activity’?

3. I’m obviously doing something different with my activities offsite with regards to teacher talk and transitions to ensure the students are as ‘physically active’ as they can be. I spend on average 7 minutes less doing this when off site. What is it and can I bring that into my teaching on site?

4. Could I refine our changing room policy and procedure to reduce timings even further, for example having students change in breaks or lunchtimes?

5. It is clear that due to a significant amount of lessons being off-site we require the higher than national average curriculum time to ensure students have a worthwhile amount of ‘physical activity’.

6. Whilst I do want to increase the amount of time my students are being ‘physically active’, I need to ensure that the understanding of why they are being active is not reduced in the process.

 

Next Steps:

I will share the data I have with my department on Monday. It shall be a focus of our next departmental meeting. I shall ask them to come prepared with ideas on how we could potentially increase the time of ‘physical activity’ in our core PE lessons. I shall share with you the outcomes and action points of that meeting.

The data has made me feel more comfortable about the amount of ‘physical activity’ my students get, but there are some opportunities now to improve this. It is also handy to have in case of any future meetings with my Headmaster with regards to reducing KS 3 Curriculum PE time.

I would also recommend you do it as part of your own teaching. It’s been a enlightening experience and has opened up a number of issues within the PE Department and my own teaching practice. However it will only become worthwhile if I look to implement any ideas born out of this data and change my teaching for the for the better.

 

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