Primary PE Coordinator Interview Series: St Peters Catholic Primary 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.
Jo Harrington, St Peter’s Catholic Primary School East Grinstead, Mid Sussex Active
St Peter’s Catholic Primary School in East Grinstead is a 1 form entry primary school with approximately 200 pupils. In 2018-19 they became the first primary school in Sussex to achieve Platinum School Games Mark and the Platinum Quality Start award, click here to see the case study showcasing their provision.
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?
I think that professionally it has to be trying to ensure that we support all of our families to be as physically active as possible but recognising so many families have very varied home environments and circumstances. Personally, it is definitely the balancing act of home schooling three young children while working from home, whilst trying not to forget your own personal health and wellbeing. Like lots of working parents at the moment, I’m trying to spin many plates. I have tried my hardest to lead by example. Sharing my personal fitness challenges with my school, such as my 100km running challenge during April and May, has not only given me personal motivation to achieve it but it also made sure that I was putting my own personal and emotional wellbeing on the top of my agenda. A run each morning really helps me focus for the day ahead and puts me in a better mental space to deal with the challenges of home schooling, working from home, and everything associated with lockdown.
I have enjoyed staying connected with other educators through Twitter and our school weekly Keep Active Newsletter. It has been great to see the vast range of ways colleagues from across the country have been engaging their families on social media and sharing good practice. We have encouraged our families to share their examples of physical activity, which has been lovely to see and respond to. We have then been able to collate these alongside our staff stories in a weekly Keep Active Newsletter. Our teachers promote this, and their own personal challenges, to their classes in their daily blogs.
I have also found it really helped with my family and school work balance to get the children involved in trialling and testing different challenges, before I promote them to my own school. We have all really been enjoying the Specsavers ‘Virtual’ Sussex School Games, by participating alongside my children I can obtain my active adult score and set a bar for the children in my school to try and beat (not too difficult!), while keeping my children active too.
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?
Yes I have, since the 1st June I have been supporting a keyworker group of EYFS and KS1 children. We very much place PESSPA at the centre of our provision to support our pupil’s physical and emotional wellbeing. We all start our day with a short energizer such as Jump Start Jonny or on Cbeebies: Andy’s Wild Workouts or Oti’s Boogie Beebies. Then throughout the day we have another Physical Education themed session using challenges and activities from our Real PE scheme, planning shared by Mid Sussex Active or the Specsavers ‘Virtual’ Sussex School Games. We end our day with a chillout from Jump Start Jonny or Cosmic Kids Yoga. Where possible we link our activities to active learning principles and are outside of the classroom as much as possible.
3. Are you sharing PE plans with pupils at home? What do these look like?
Yes we are sharing the Real PE and home login information with families so they can access the wide range of age specific games and challenges. The #ThisisPE series of lessons are also great and we have promoted these to our families to complete at home. We also received weekly plans from Mid Sussex Active which link skill development with other areas of the curriculum which we share on the PE and Sport page on our website. We promote these on our Twitter account as well. I have found the Active Sussex Primary Resources document useful, which we have uploaded to our website, and we find the Active Sussex Education eNews useful as well.
4. What other resources are you using to help pupils at home stay active? How are you sharing these resources with pupils?
At the start of the lockdown we launched our Keep Active campaign. As part of this we send electronic newsletters celebrating lots of the children being active at home and in school each week. This is also accompanied by a fortnightly activity diary. This has proven to be a great success and enables a great platform to promote new ideas and initiatives such as the Mid Sussex Virtual Marathon and Blue Peter Badges of the Summer.
The photos submitted by parents help us to stay connected as a school community. The newsletter has evolved over the weeks and now heavily features our participation in the Specsavers ‘Virtual’ Sussex School Games, sporting personal challenges and the staff keeping active too. We share this with children in school, to our parents and governors electronically, and also on our Twitter account. The class teachers promote the initiative in their phone calls, daily blogs and in activity recommendations for their classes. We also share optional scorecards for the games to ease data collection and to try and make the data entry for staff in school as easy as possible.
5. Are pupils and parents engaging? How do you know?
Yes most definitely, the participation figures for the Specsavers ‘Virtual’ Sussex School Games, are increasing week on week. We are having great positive feedback from parents and children. The ongoing contribution of photos for the newsletter indicates an increase in families actively engaging in the project. We have been really pleased to have so many of our younger children participating which is brilliant evidence for the KS1 Quality Start Award. We have also recently introduced a Keep Active at Home Challenge for all of our children to set physical activity challenges via a short video clip to be shared on their class webpage. One of the benefits of using Real PE is that we can see how many families are logging into the platform, we will add this to our impact data and use it for the reporting of the PE & Sport Premium.
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?
It has always been a target that the children’s physical activity and emotional wellbeing are a core element of the children’s experiences in returning to school. Similarly to the models in which the keyworker children follow (see question 2), we have used our PE & Sport Premium funding to invest in an additional range of easily cleanable equipment. We have updated our risk assessments and implemented a a whole school approach to safety and hygiene. Wherever possible, we minimise the use of lots of equipment and try to colour code equipment for each child. The children and staff all follow stringent washing of hands before and after the activity. It is amazing how well the children adapt to new routines and expectations. The time cleaning the equipment after the activity is worth it when you see the engagement and enjoyment the children have during the physical activity.
7. What good practice advice would you give to other primary PE coordinators?
It is a tough time in so many ways, I think my top tip would be to try to raise the profile of your own personal health and wellbeing in your daily schedule. You will feel so much better (like the children do) when you have exercised and will be able to achieve so much more. Leading by example is a great way to encourage your pupils to be active too. It is important to involve SLT in a whole school approach and use PESSPA as a tool to drive whole school improvement. It is also important to celebrate successes with pupils, parents and staff. Try and stay connected with Active Sussex, your local SGO and Association for PE (AfPE) for links to valuable training and advice which will help you provide the best provision possible for PESSPA, in a climate where physical activity and mental wellbeing have never been so important for our children.
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.