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Why do we try to fit so much into the Boys' Spring Term?

Posted Friday, 16 February 2018

If school terms had to be arranged in rank order of attractiveness, the Spring Term would be third, by some distance, for most teachers, parents and pupils.  It starts in the worst weather of the year, when it is dark by 4.00pm.  It is regularly cold and wet, with frequent disruption when the weather crosses the boundary from unpleasant to impossible.  “What can we do this afternoon?”, and “Will the game be on?” are the daily chorus.

This unsatisfactory background is the one chosen for the most intricate, and extensive, sports programme that most schools run.  This is especially the case for boys.  Fewer schools now play two winter terms of the same sport.  A second term of rugby has been replaced by another spring term sport, and those schools who used to base their Spring Term programme around boys’ hockey have now found that pressure on artificial pitch time has required...

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Is there enough P in PE ?

Posted Wednesday, 29 November 2017

When PT was first introduced into schools, its purpose was clear and unequivocal.  It was to provide exercise in order to improve health.  To combat diseases prevalent in poverty, and to raise standards of fitness, often primarily for military service.  It might have been a limited programme, with some fairly uninspiring content and delivery mechanisms - but its rationale was clear.  Exercise improves health.  And that's a good thing.

The industry of Physical Education, however, complicated this issue.  It added other success criteria, including acquiring sports skills and developing personal qualities.  All of these impacted upon delivery.  Broadly, they led to more teacher talk, and breaks in physical activity for explanations.  “Teaching Points” defined lesson quality.  Lesson plans established a prescription, which, if accurately administered, fostered more skillful...

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Schools Need Exercise to Improve Exam Grades

Posted Tuesday, 21 November 2017

"If exercise came in pill form, it would be plastered across the front page, hailed as the blockbuster drug of the century". Ratey and Hagerman

Schools have often implied a link between academic performance and physical activity.  Every summer term, the debate rages as to whether playing summer sports enhances or impedes exam performance. Missing lessons for sports fixtures is one of the all-time leaders of intra colleague friction.

Given this, it is perhaps surprising that the abundant science is not leveraged to clarify the facts regarding the undisputed benefits of exercise to learning.  Schools devote a significant amount of time to both physical activity and academic learning - and oddly little to the link between the two.

So, how does exercise benefit learning?  The following are a few of those ways:

Firstly, in addition to priming...

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“They Have Been Telling us the Answer for Years: ‘Please Sir, Can We Have a Game?’”

Posted Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The industry of sport coaching is a recently evolved one.  Before the 1970s, few teams had anything that could be described as a coach. Other than to transport them to the game. Indeed, many would have been offended by the implication of the concept.  Perhaps more shocking, cones had not been invented.  Any rudimentary team organisation was overseen by the captain. “Game Plans” and “Systems” were in their absolute infancy.

Fifty years have seen a huge cultural shift.  No self respecting team would be without a coach, whatever its performance level.  Player dependency is absolute: coach centricity is unquestioned.  At all levels of every game, the expectation of all is that the coach gives the instructions, and the players follow them.  This is not just before the game. It has become the industry norm that the coach maintains a constant commentary of advice and observation (to...

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Changing the Tone of School Sport

Posted Tuesday, 24 October 2017

How important is winning? The answer to this - apparently spurious - question massively influences the success criteria of school sport.  If winning is the most important thing, it has implications that are far reaching.  It influences how the game is coached, refereed, team selection, substitution, as well as the attitudes of players, coaches and parents to the opposition, the referee, cheating and their respect for the game.

The tone and spirit of school sport has changed significantly in the last twenty years.  And not for the better.  In the absence of more compelling success criteria, the default position has become the value system of the Daily Telegraph and Sky Sports - what are the results?  Who has won? Who is unbeaten?

What is the implication of it all?

When winning becomes the driving force of school sport, lots of things change.  The atmosphere...

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Parenting the Young Sports Star

Posted Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Size and speed are the enemies of pre-maturation sport.  They give the early developers an undue advantage, and they unbalance the game.  Anyone who has ever coached or refereed these games dreads the arrival of the man-child: the boy who scores five tries every game, or the girl who scores the same number of goals.  Other parents look on enviously, as their own children play a bit part (at best).  The show is dominated by the dramatic effectiveness of the early maturer - whose parents are kings of the touchline.

It is, however, the parents of the dominant player who have the most difficult task.  In the face of lavish praise for the child’s sporting “talent”, often accompanied by considerable attention from the pillaging parties of senior schools, it is easy to overlook the science.  Research clearly identifies that those born early in the school year have considerable...

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