Primary PE Coordinator Interview Series: Grove Park Special School
Covid-19 has led to the closure of schools, requiring children, staff and parents to adapt to remote learning. Many schools are still open to cater for vulnerable pupils and pupils of key workers. Primary schools have begun a phased reopening process from the 1st of June. With the pressures and challenges the school staff are under, it may lead to a decrease in PE delivery and levels of physical activity. There are lots of active at home resources for schools and families to access however many of them are physical activity-focussed rather than PE-focussed. Opportunities are being shared online, but for many PE coordinators, who are class teachers first and foremost, it may seem overwhelming.
Active Sussex will be releasing a series of interview blogs from Sussex Primary PE Coordinators throughout the summer term. These interviews will aim to:
- Share positive solutions to the challenges primary PE coordinators are facing.
- Share best practice and innovative ideas on how to continue to deliver PE and keep pupils active during this difficult time.
Dan Wheatley, Grove Park School, North Wealden
Grove Park is a maintained special school in East Sussex with approximately 110 pupils. Grove Park cater for pupils with complex needs including those with Profound, Severe and Moderate Learning Difficulties, Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Sensory Needs. They are a Gold School Games Mark school and regularly attend the Active Sussex Parallel Youth Games.
1. Covid-19 has brought many challenges and issues, what has been the biggest challenge for you as PE coordinator? How have you managed to adapt to address these challenges and barriers?
The week beginning 13th of March we held a hugely successful Sport Relief challenge, raising approximately £800 between the three school sites. Since then, the government imposed the lockdown and closed the schools to the majority so the way that we deliver PESSPA to our pupils has needed to be adapted. Once it was clarified that most pupils would be learning from home, I knew that I would need to adapt our teaching techniques in order for pupils to continue to participate in PESSPA within the confines of their homes. How the lessons could reach the pupils in order for them to participate needed careful consideration, particularly because we currently do not have social media in the school. The PE videos are made accessible weekly via the school website and an e-mail is sent to all parents directing them to the new video. I feel I have done everything possible to ensure staff and parents encourage our pupils to be engaged and active regardless if they are at home or school.
2. Are you still going to school to support vulnerable pupils and those of keyworkers? If so, how has it changed the normal daily routine? Is PESSPA still being delivered to these pupils?
I am currently going into school three days a week and working from home the other two. Since the beginning of term 5 to date, pupils enjoy the 9am PE with Joe Wicks (The Bodycoach) and are encouraged to complete daily walks. I offer assistance and support to the staff, providing lesson content and resources, to enable our pupils to continue to participate in their weekly PE lesson, as well as staying active and engaged.
Whilst I am working in the school on a Thursday, I use this as an opportunity to deliver a PE morning for all pupils. In school each class ‘bubble’ starts by watching my weekly PE video, usually uploaded to the school website on the Wednesday evening. As well as exercises relevant to the sport that we are teaching, we also encourage the pupils to participate in the Active Sussex Specsavers ‘Virtual’ Sussex School Games. As part of my PE video, I will demonstrate the weekly challenges set by Active Sussex in an easy to understand format, utilising every-day objects around the house. The children at school then have a designated time to use the hall or playground in order to try the exercises in the video.
3. Are you sharing PE plans with pupils at home? What do these look like?
Each week, for the last six academic weeks, I have added a ‘PE lesson’ video for the pupils to watch and copy to the best of their ability. I have provided adaptations to each activity dependent on the variety of pupils I am catering for at the school, this can be based on their age or physical ability. This way, whether the pupils are now back in school or continuing to stay at home, they can watch the video and maintain their daily physical activity. I hope that the PE videos have brought a sense of ‘routine’ for the pupils and that they have enjoyed seeing/laughing at my exercises! It is also important for me to use this as a way of reassuring the pupils that I am still available to help, whilst sending well wishes to them and their family at this uncertain time.
In term 6, I have incorporated the Specsavers ‘Virtual’ Sussex School Games challenges part of my PE video, this provides the pupils at school and home with an opportunity to watch each challenge before they attempt it themselves. I feel the Specsavers ‘Virtual’ Sussex School Games has been a huge success. I know the staff, pupils and parents have enjoyed competing for the school in a fun way whilst trying to improve their scores during the week.
4. What other resources are you using to help pupils at home stay active? How are you sharing these resources with pupils?
I have created a ‘Grove Park Alphabet Exercises Challenge.’ This has a different exercise associated to each letter of the alphabet. For continuity, I have used this for the ‘warm up’ in the weekly PE videos. Each week the pupils are given a different word, which they are then required to carry out each of the exercises to make the word. In previous weeks this has included their name, the school name and the focus for each weeks sporting challenges i.e. cricket/athletics. The ‘Grove Park Alphabet Exercises Challenge’ document is on the school website for pupils to use at their leisure should they wish to pick their own word and perform the exercises.
5. Are pupils and parents engaging? How do you know?
I am really pleased with the feedback that I have been receiving from the parents and families. I have received some great videos and pictures from parents and pupils of them participating in each weeks challenges. I was overwhelmed by one particular e-mail from a pupil who progressed each week with their throwing and catching skills – for me receiving this e-mail makes the time and effort all worthwhile. With the consent of the parents, the photos and videos are then used on the website to offer encouragement to other pupils.
I have been closely monitoring the statistics and am pleased to share that;
- The number of participants has increased each week for the Specsavers ‘Virtual’ Sussex School Games.
- Fantastic feedback from both staff at school and parents of those pupils continuing to work from home.
- Increased visitors of the school website since Covid in order to access the PE content.
6. With the phased reopening of schools taking place from June 1st, what steps are you taking to follow DfE guidance and ensure pupils still access PESSPA safely when they return?
As a school we have had a phased return of some pupils across two sites. Each pupil is working in a class ‘bubble’ with the school completing a thorough risk assessment. The classrooms are deep cleaned after school and washing hands is taking place on a regular basis. PE lessons are now being taught by each individual classroom teacher to those in their ‘bubble’, encouraging them to deliver these lessons outside as advised. We have utilised the AfPE support and guidance, as well as gaining advice from our North Wealden School Games Organiser (SGO) Tracy Lewis.
7. What good practice advice would you give to other primary PE coordinators?
I feel the main objective has been to make the activities you offer fun and engaging for the pupils at home. During term 5 I set the same challenge each week (throw, clap, catch), which gave the pupils an opportunity to progress and develop their skills and recognise their own achievements. It can be confusing for the pupils why they are now learning from home so ensure that you are engaging with them frequently and offering reassurance that you are still available for help. I also feel by being open to adapting the way you deliver PESSPA is very important, for example by creating video content for pupils to watch in order to continue to be physically active. Celebrating pupil participation is also critical.
For more ideas and resources to stay active during Covid 19 please visit our Active at Home Children & Young People web page.
For free, impartial advice and support regarding your PE, sport and physical activity provision, please contact Nick Chellel.