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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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Parents in Sport: Do you want to Witness Joy or Victory?

Posted Friday, 06 October 2017

The great majority of parents like to see their offspring participate in sports or physical activity.  Rarer is the carer who sees no value in this.  The reasons why they approve of this type of involvement vary, though they are infrequently thought-out beyond the vague conviction that it’s somehow “good” for the kids.  What parents want their kids to get out of their experience of youth sport will determine the environment they choose to put them into, and the achievements that they wish to celebrate and encourage.

Research is quite clear what children enjoy in sport.  Having fun, being with friends, getting better at something, the excitement of competition: these are fairly consistent conclusions.  All these regularly appear above the desire to win trophies.  Whether the influential adults who determine the youth sports environment reflect these priorities is crucial.  It...

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Does Size Matter? Are big schools always at an advantage in sport?

Posted Monday, 02 October 2017

“They have got more to pick from!” is a regular refrain explaining the competitive success of large schools.  Certainly,  if sporting ability followed the curve of normal distribution - and no other factors were involved - then this would be true.  It can't be as simple as that though, or else there would be a linear relationship with pupil roll and trophy cabinet congestion.

Size creates challenges for schools in delivering sport.  It's not a magic formula, in which big is best.  A principal challenge is one of quality control.  It is more difficult to ensure that a large number of pupils has a positive experience than a small number.  Beyond the critical mass needed to maintain a high performance programme, larger pupil populations make demands on resources that can stretch the capacity to deliver quality.

The simple mathematics are not irrelevant, but they are far...

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