The summer holidays are a time for reflection as teachers and often our only opportunity to look back at the academic year we’ve had as practitioners and remember the successes we often overlook in the midst of term time.
For me, it has certainly been the busiest year I’ve had in my short teaching career. To my delight, I took up the role and responsibilities of PE leadership at my school – a junior school of 390 children, located in Surrey.
As an NQT+1 I was very aware the opportunity to become a subject leader was one I’d love to take on and PE was the ideal subject for me. I have been a sportsman all my life, studied Sports Science and Sports Coaching at university and worked as a sports coach prior to my teacher training. Coupled with another year of teaching in Year 6, there was no such thing as a quiet week.
Without a doubt, the greatest strength of leading PE in my school is that it allows you to know every child, something I don’t feel necessarily happens if you lead on any other subject. I oversee the planning and delivery of timetabled PE lessons, lunch and after school clubs, sports teams and sporting events (e.g. sports day, Sport Relief) across the year, which genuinely enables you to come face-to-face with every child at your school.
You learn their quirks, their interests, their motivators and you become a figure that is universally respected. Children will want to give you high-fives in the corridor, embrace it. They will want to share their sporting success from outside school, embrace it. Children will want to show you the new football tricks they can do, embrace it.
PE leadership puts you in an unrivalled position, you become a prominent figure and a well-known face around the school and even the wider community. All of this will seem quite bizarre at first, however, it becomes the norm very quickly.
I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been surrounded by an amazing group of children. They’ll push themselves in ways you can never imagine, they’ll do everything for the school in fixtures, try new ideas you’re keen to roll out and always do it with a smile on their faces.
The staff have been no different and due to the sheer amount of work PE leadership entails, it is incredibly helpful to have those around you who are happy to run clubs, drive the minibus, collect the kits, write letters etc.
At first, I was terrible at delegating – many teachers are, we have a fear that jobs won’t get done the way we’d do it or that in the time you’ve explained something, you could have got it done yourself. Both of these scenarios are probably true, however, for your own sanity and the illusive work-life balance, it’s essential.
Surrounding yourself with likeminded people will make your life so much easier. Excitingly, I will be taking over further responsibilities next year by chairing the association and I’ve got ambitions of growing it further in the coming year, including football and netball leagues with weekly fixtures.
It’s crazy how many sporting items fill your diary as the PE leader and virtually every day of the week you’ll have something going on – well I certainly did. Clubs, fixtures and meetings will all become a daily occurrence for you. If you are good at managing your time and particularly as a Year 6 teacher this was crucial, you’ll be fine. However, if you find this tricky, speak to someone.
The worst thing you can do is bottle up your anxieties and hide from the problems. If you’re snowed under, speak to someone. Also, learn to say no to things. On occasion, I had to withdraw us from a couple of sporting events, as it simply became too much for myself and the children. You’ll feel guilty but you don’t want the children to burnout, or you for that matter.
My year has been full of memorable highlights, magical moments that I look back on fondly. Sports day is always a fantastic event, one that we really go for at my school. Firstly, a morning of inclusive mass participation events that promote the sporting values of the School Games and secondly, a traditional sports day athletics programme in the afternoon.
This year we had over 400 spectators and the atmosphere was incredible. It is a seriously demanding event to organise with weeks and weeks of preparation, becoming used to being the first in and the last out of the school in the build-up and logistically managing that many people all in one space are just some of the challenges you face.
But I cannot describe how amazing it feels when it all goes to plan and everyone has a wonderful day taking part in sport. Some of my other highlights include: being awarded the Gold School Games mark, qualifying for multiple county finals across a range of sports, successfully introducing a new PE scheme of work (Real PE), awarding Sportsperson of the week/term trophies in celebration assemblies and working so closely with so many outstanding children.
Day to day, I’d bet on PE leaders being the busiest of all the subject leaders in a school. Not a day goes by when you aren’t writing letters to parents, running a trial, taking a team to a fixture, pumping up the footballs, liaising with other schools, replying to sporting emails, the list is endless.
Would I have it any other way? Absolutely not. Is there a subject to lead that gives you more satisfaction? Absolutely not. Would I discourage a fellow teacher to take up the role in their school? Absolutely not. It’s the best job you can get aside from being a class teacher and one you have to wholeheartedly immerse yourself into, however it is worth every minute of hard work.
The final whistle never really blows on a PE leaders responsibilities, as I’m always looking ahead to the next event, yet if you’re into your sport and have competed previously, you’ll know that is simply the nature of the beast.