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What does Sport for All really mean?

Posted Friday, 12 October 2018

In the 1970s, the then Sports Council came up with a number of campaigns designed to improve levels of physical activity within various groups in society. The laudable generic title was ‘Sport for All’. Few things have survived intact from the era of long hair and flared trousers, but this title is different. It is alive and well in schools, often cited to suggest a programme which aspires to provide for all pupils. Presumably, the alternative would be ‘Sport only for the Athletically Able”. That would be a less catchy title and an uncomfortable philosophy. Despite the fact that it often what is delivered.

 It is, however, a redundant, historical expression, which obscures the landscape of physical activity in schools. Part of the issue is with the word “sport”. It is instructive that the physical life of a school has no agreed nomenclature with which all constituencies are...

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Why does a School need a Director of Sport?

Posted Friday, 28 September 2018

The Director of Sport is a relatively new role in schools. Twenty five years ago, fewer than a handful of schools had a position of this title.  Now everyone has one.  Many Heads report that this is the most difficult position to appoint to, because – unlike other subjects - the success criteria are not clear.  Is it about filling the trophy cabinet, or the ubiquitous and elusive “Sport for All”?  Can a school have plural success criteria for physical activity – with none more important than the others?  What is the point of a Director of Sport?

A Director of Sport provides three fundamental functions that no school has a successful sports programme without:

The first of these is leadership.  Not management, or administration.  This means three things:  the first is the capacity to clearly see the desirable future state of the organisation, and to anticipate exactly how...

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The Sport facilities arms race- building the field of dreams?

Posted Thursday, 27 September 2018

"To be or not to be" or more appropriately in our case, "if you build it, they will come" Vs "if you build it, WILL they come?"

While it is can be an enormous drain on Independent schools' financial resources that arguably could be better utilised on bursaries for less privileged children or (insert your preferred cost unit) the development or continuous improvement of sports facilities has become an arms race. As a former Director of Sport who actively encouraged my own Head and Governors to join the race for fear of being left behind, l would know! Taken in the context of the ever widening divide between the haves and have nots, it has become a source of pride on the one hand, but also a source of friction and one of the perceived evils of the private education sector on the other.

Whatever your feelings and the merits or otherwise of building these facilities, it has...

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The Summer Term Needs a New Girls' Sport

Posted Friday, 15 June 2018

There never was an equivalent of Cricket for girls.  A game that occupied almost everyone at different levels of ability and formed the bulk of the competitive programme.  Cricket occupied that role for over a hundred years in boys’ schools, and part of the legacy of its current declining popularity is the question of what replaces it.

For girls, the summer term offers an often inadequate combination of Tennis, Athletics and Rounders.  None is entirely satisfactory.  Tennis has a high entry level of skill requirement, and uses facilities inefficiently: Athletics captures the imagination of few teenage girls, and the significant number of girls who love Rounders often do so for the wrong reasons.  A small number of girls is in high demand for matches and competitions in all activities.  If the first tennis pair is also the backbone of the Athletics squad and the Rounders team,...

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Book Review: 'Sevens Heaven' by Ben Ryan

Posted Friday, 08 June 2018

This is a book about Ben Ryan’s career as Head Coach of Fiji sevens, leading to the Gold Medal in the first ever Olympic Sevens in Rio in 2016.

But it is about much more than that.  It is the story of an impetuous decision to take on a job of rich potential, but endless short term frustration in a Third World environment.  This background is part of the book’s fascination. 

Implicit throughout is the contrast with Ryan’s previous role as Head Coach of England, the world’s most richly resourced union, though one mired in bureaucracy.  The free spiritedness of the Fijian players sits alongside the careful preparation of the English, but the chaotic nature of the organisation of the game in the Pacific brings frequent frustrations.  Penury is a constant theme, but overcoming it is a significant part of the story.  This theme reaches its ultimate poetic conclusion, as the...

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What's the best thing a school can have in Sport?

Posted Thursday, 31 May 2018

Anyone seeking the answer to this question by scouring school websites would be forgiven for coming up with the wrong answer to this question. 

The things that schools seem to be most proud of - to judge by the messages which they promote to the wider world - are the competitive successes of a small number of pupils, and their facilities.  Lavish and shiny facilities are the proxy for a vibrant sports programme, inferring that the presence of the former guarantees the latter.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Similarly, the fact that a small number of pupils can be successful in a national competition may be evidence of a school with excellent provision, or it may be a complete red herring.  Recruiting a coterie of hired assassins can have a considerable impact upon competitive success, whilst at the same time masking the real health of the programme.  They...

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