In response to statements made in a recent facebook post.
I understand that I am providing opinion based only on my own qualifications and experiences. I do however have a pretty good track record in Physical Education. Prior to setting up Gymrun, I worked as a qualified PE teacher, personal trainer, Head of PE and Director of Sport in a wide range of school settings for 14 years. Since founding Gymrun, I have taught in 50 primary schools. I appreciate that yours is a differing and well-informed worldview. To have differing opinions and to be able to communicate these positively and constructively is a priviledge.
You are absolutely right, these are fitness challenges. I began by calling this a fitness assessment. Fitness can be perceived as limited to the subject area of PE. The term physical health has greater reach. I recognise that physical health relates to other areas such as nutrition and sleep, but fitness is a key part of this term. Below is the dictionary definition:
‘Physical health is defined as the condition of your body, taking into consideration everything from the absence of disease to fitness level.’ Here is how I introduce this session:
‘This is about your physical health and fitness. We want you to think about your physical health. By this we mean ‘how well you feel in your body’. Mental health is to do with how well you feel in your mind. Social health is to do with how well you relate to other people. All of these areas are really important and they are all linked. Yes, this is about PE. But this is about much more than PE. With improved physical health, you will be more alert at the end of the school day, more resilient/less likely to give up when challenged, and you will have improved mental and social health. Research shows that improved physical health will even improve your learning.’
I have listed below three/six strands of the NC Programme of Study for PE in KS2. These three areas are covered by the Gymrun assessment (all in one lesson). Pupils should be taught to:
-Use running, jumping, (throwing and catching) in isolation and in combination
-Develop flexibility, strength, technique, control and balance (for example, through athletics and gymnastics)
-Compare their performances with previous ones and demonstrate improvement to achieve their personal best
I completely agree with you that levelling is a contentious issue in education. I believe that in order to progress every child, school stakeholders need to know what each individual child can and can’t do. There is insufficient time in schools to monitor this at great length for a subject as broad as PE – which receives little curriculum time (as we both know). The level in itself is unimportant (and played down), but the vehicle it provides for engaging all children – when communicated appropriately – can be truly inspirational.
Giving badges implies competition against others (should be avoided for anything related to fitness, and not good practice for PE anyway)
Award badges have provided tremendous participation motivation for hundreds of thousands of children, both in physical activities and beyond, for years. Should we remove Swimming, Gymnastics, Athletics and all other award badges from schools? Children will always compare themselves with others. They will compete against others to an unhealthy extent when this behaviour is reinforced to them by external influences, such as teachers and parents. I am diametrically opposed to this. Here is what I say to all classes:
‘This is not about being the best in your class, or comparing yourself to others. This is about personal competition. About being your personal best. This is about finding out what you can do today, identifying your strengths and your areas for development. You can then use this information to work on these areas before coming back to repeat these challenges and celebrate the progress you have made as a result of your hard work.’
I have taught this assessment personally to more than 6,000 pupils in over 50 schools. A child may be upset for a short period of time to learn that they cannot support their bodyweight to perform a dip, or run for three minutes without walking. I share this situation as a positive learning opportunity with the class. I encourage all pupils to challenge themselves to the point of failure, which will be different for everyone. I reinforce that this type of failure facilitates learning and should be encouraged. To those who may question assessment of physical health, and quite often to classes, I promote a transparent culture:
‘We may momentarily upset a child who cannot support their bodyweight, but in doing so provide them with the tools and the understanding to go away and improve on this, by practicing a dip with bent legs on a sofa or bed at home. Eventually they will be able to do a dip with straight legs. And then a few more dips. They will return to this session next time with a huge sense of achievement, as they demonstrate progress. The alternative is to brush this reality under the carpet. The likelihood here is they will not be able to support their bodyweight throughout secondary school, and for the rest of their life. This is about developing an understanding of how to keep physically healthy in all children, and providing progressive steps towards achieving this – through nutrition, sleep and exercise.’
Gymrun was designed with the physical health, physical literacy and wellbeing of all children firmly in mind, by someone who is living this journey for the right reasons.