PE funding for Primary Schools – you can’t have failed to notice that everyone and their dog wants to get their hands on the money. Independent sports coaches, Premiership football clubs, sports foundations, CPD providers, local authorities, sports development units and the last remnants of what was the School Sport Partnerships. And they’re all offering different products and services that your school just can’t do without. How on earth have your teachers managed for all these years without building core stability in the early years so that your kids can hold their pencils properly?
It’s a bit like the ‘Emperors New Clothes’ – all these new ideas that are the latest fad/trend/invention of the cash hungry PE and sport providers. Programmes that will give your kids a “head start”, “raise attainment and achievement”, “accelerate learning” and “close the gap” with “outstanding lessons”. Best send your teachers on a one day course now or you will be doing your pupils a disservice – you and they will be missing out, so hurry, book now or feel like a failure!
And have you noticed that there’s a pattern to all these courses, and all these people that want to get their hands on your PE funding? The pattern is the assumptions they make about teachers. Are they all based on a ‘deficit’ model – your teachers need to be fixed, filled up, or moulded to become clones in order to deliver ‘real PE’?
Is this what PE and sport CPD providers see when they look at primary teachers?
1.Leaky buckets – teachers are full of gaps that need to be plugged with content and knowledge – the ‘what’ of PE and sport. e.g. Ofsted Inspection framework, what an outstanding lesson looks like, sport specific skills
2.Empty skills baskets – teachers lacking in the ‘how to’ – practical steps, tools, techniques for you to carry out your role and responsibilities
3.Morph (remember Tony Hart’s plasticine model?) – teachers are balls of clay to be moulded in the style of a so-called ‘expert’. Teachers are malleable and need courses, and experts to tell them what they ‘should, need to, ought to, have to’ do. These providers rely on teachers feeling driven by necessity, and that they should do and be what others want them to.
So is there another way to see primary teachers in relation to this golden pot of PE funding?
What if we ‘flipped’ the model on its head and instead of a deficit model looked at teachers using a ‘surplus’ model? What if instead of looking for gaps to be plugged we look at all the strengths and talents they have already? What if we view teachers as Superheroes? What if we believe they are caped crusaders possessing all the resources they need already?
Primary teachers are great pedagogical experts who already teach a vast range of curriculum subjects. They are experts in their pupils, they know their school, the context, the resources they have to hand, pupils’ parents and carers, brothers and sisters. They already know how to inspire, motivate, challenge, stretch, develop, lead, manage, engage, organise, create and innovate. They also know how to find content knowledge (the what) either through books, the internet or through their own personal learning network, and they already know and use a vast range of strategies, tools and techniques (the how). They know what an outstanding lesson feels like, and they can teach in a whole range of settings from classrooms to forests, to sports halls and pools.
What would PE professional development look like if we believed all this about teachers and started from this point? What would PE professional development feel like if it catered for the whole teacher and provided them with autonomy, purpose and a personalised path to mastery?
One thing is for sure – it wouldn’t look like a one day ‘spray and pray’ training course (spray the training on and pray it sticks) that costs a lot of money, takes the teacher out of their setting and effectively tells them what they are not good at.
So teachers and school leaders, before you jump on the CPD and sports coaches’ bandwagon and plump for the quickest and easiest way to spend your PE funding, think about what it says about how you view your teachers? And if that’s really what you believe about them, what does it say about you?