With teacher retention a hot topic at the moment, I believe that a good way to help engage and support the continuing professional learning (CPL) of PE staff is to support their participation and leadership of school trips.
Establishment of a high quality and stable workforce is a key factor in long-term school improvement and therefore has to be a top priority for senior leaders. So how can a school trip help with this? Well, far from being the ‘jolly’ that their colleagues left in the staffroom might imagine, well designed developmental sports trips (including skiing), are just as useful for teachers as they are for the students in terms of learning opportunities. The benefits to young people – development of leadership and team-working skills, resilience and perseverance – are also applicable to staff. While students return to the classroom engaged, enthused and excited, with new skills and new friends, teachers come back to school similarly refreshed and having benefitted from watching and learning from the professional coaches as they run the students through drills, tactics and theory.
Seeing at first hand the tools and techniques used by the expert coaches running the trip really enhance the professional practice of PE staff – boosting their confidence and providing them with new, valuable and up-to-date resources to draw upon. Everything they learn can be taken back to school and used for the rest of the year and to support colleagues and students who stayed behind. Ideas gained are easily transferable, so that teaching tactics on the ski slope will also work on the football field.
Specialist sports development experiences are very different to run of the mill sports lessons, providing focus and engagement which is simply not possible within a school environment. They provide additional time and space for a properly planned approach, without the curriculum pressures on time. By taking children on organised developmental sports trips you ensure that they are not just playing matches, but also are training for three to four hours a day.
These trips often allow schools to gain a wealth of experience by working in partnership with top clubs, national bodies and centres of excellence, providing their students and teachers with an intensive and potentially life-changing experience. They will benefit from high-quality coaching, techniques, theory and experiences which will pay dividends long after the trip ends.
This CPL aspect is invaluable in helping PE teachers progress to senior management positions. I believe that PE teachers frequently demonstrate all the professional qualities and skills, drive and vision necessary in a successful headship. Obviously, they have experience of leading and coaching teams and know how to approach problems in a practical way.
Let’s not forget that many PE teachers won’t want, or be able, to run up and down the sports fields as they work up until their 60s and need other opportunities.
Feeling under-valued, lacking the support to do a good job or to improve and facing a lack of career or development opportunities are common reasons given by staff when they leave a school. The opportunities afforded by regular sports trips to energise staff will definitely address these types of concerns and ensure that PE teachers, like their students, fulfill their true potential both on the sports field and in the classroom.
Independent schools have an excellent reputation for teaching and playing sport – but no one can sit on their laurels, it’s vital that staff have all the necessary support to maintain standards. I truly believe that participation on developmental sports trips will help PE staff to go the extra mile.
John Bentley is chief executive officer of Inspiring Learning, the largest independent provider of out of classroom learning experiences in the UK