Archives for Month: July 2020

6 ways in which Athletes can inspire your school as we exit lockdown

Returning to school is vital for children’s education and for their wellbeing, while the risk to children themselves of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 is very low.

In numbers, 2 deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded across England and Wales out of 10.7 million under 15s, so that’s a chance of 1 in 5.3 million; that means COVID-19 is 7 times less risky for children than the 2017-18 seasonal flu.

In the meantime, there are so many negative health impacts of being out of school. So, for the vast majority of children, the benefits of being back in school far outweigh the very low risk from COVID-19.

Whilst children seem to be largely immune from the virus, they are not immune from the broader impacts on our society and economy. It is even more important now to lift and inspire children to achieve their potential and be the best they can be.

  1. Athletes are fantastic role models

Athletes are able to show the children the power of hard work, perseverance, grit and resilience in a very unique and influential way. Sports for Schools athletes are all of very high calibre: They’ve all represented their country at one of the major games (Olympics/Paralympics, World Champs, European Champs, Commonwealth Games or Invictus Games).

The whole school will take part in a fun fitness circuit led by the athlete and a sportivater (this can easily be done in bubbles with no equipment required).

The athlete will then deliver motivational talks in mini assemblies (or classroom visits if preferred). They don’t just talk about competing; they explain the challenges they have faced, and deliver highly motivating messages about trying your best, working hard, and leading a healthy life.

  1. Events can take place outside

Children LOVE being outside and there are many health benefits from being outside. The risk of transmission is also considerably lower outdoors and lack of space is much less of an issue.

I know what you’re thinking…what about the weather?! But how many times does it actually rain or snow so much that you can’t be outside? Think back to the past 4 weeks of going to work – how often did you actually get wet? I imagine the answer is less than you first thought.

  1. No equipment is necessary

The beauty of the fitness circuit, is that absolutely no equipment is needed which can help considerably with cleaning procedures. The Athlete and sportivater will simply use some tape (that they will bring!) to separate the exercise stations.

  1. Online sponsorship

Since lockdown, we’ve all discovered there’s a digital solution for just about everything these days; running fundraising events is no exception. More digital means less social contact, so encourage the parents to set up an online fundraising page where they can easily share the page with friends and family and learn more about the visiting athlete.

  1. Self-certification

Government guidance will be followed throughout to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Athletes and sportivaters will also provide self-certification on arrival (along with their DBS and ID as always) and will practice good hygiene with regular hand sanitation to reduce any risk.

  1. Virtual events

If you’re still not sure, then how about an ONLINE event?  The great news is that the whole school can take part (wherever they are, whether in school or at home!). All you need is a mobile device or computer.

The athlete will deliver a fun fitness circuit, give a brief inspirational talk, and host Q&A all ONLINE. The event is carefully moderated, and as always with children, we’ve found the Q&A to be the best!


Here’s some recent feedback from a school who hosted a virtual event during lockdown:

“With everything going on at the moment and the anxiety the children are feeling, this was such a great thing for the children to experience, there was a real buzz after the event. 

Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to do another event like that again. It was engaging, educational, interesting and for the pupils to have Olympians training them will truly inspire them.” (Pentland Primary School)

If you want to get the kids at your school inspired and motivated to be more active, take a look round our site today or get in touch with a member of our team on 01223 792200.


CEO Insights: Part 1 – Education & schools – a system in need of radical change

The covid-19 pandemic has exposed the way in which incrementalism and focus on exam results has driven out initiative and leadership from the system. We all know that it’s only when things get tough & when there are surprises that anyone or anything is really tested, and weaknesses identified.

All systems are good and bad
The human instinct, when thinking about planning for the future is to look back to last year, and then extrapolate a plan. This is the essence of incrementalism. Though it has a place, it’s inherently a system that sets in stone some essential elements of itself, which is a recipe for eventual self-destruction. It’s now brought us to an ever-increasing tightening of the Ofsted noose around schools, not because Ofsted are not doing their job (they are implementing the law), but because each little step has seemed sensible at the time. Max Weber, the first sociologist to study bureaucracy, saw it both positively as an efficient means of organising society, but also as a force that destroys individual freedom (both behaviour and thought).

By squeezing out individual thought, diversity and innovation are stifled. Free thinking ideas never see the light of day, as the pressure to standardise reduces the very diversity on which progress is based. The system no longer has the capacity to adapt to technology & societal changes. Failure is no longer tolerated, and we end up with one monstrous top down system disconnected from the reality experienced by those very people the system is expected to serve.

Share paintbrushes but not pencils
This is the process that has led us to a situation in which central government in the form of the Department for Education (DfE) felt the need to produce a 156 page document to explain to schools how they should go about re-opening in September 2020. It is surely not the role of the DfE to tell a head teacher that pencils may not be shared between pupils, but paintbrushes may indeed be shared, in order to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. This is the moment we need to step back and realise that our system needs change. The bureaucracy is self-destructing, and children are the victims, today and for the rest of their lives.

LEAs had their weaknesses and were clearly in need of change. MATs have been suggested as a solution, but once again this is an example of tinkering – moving the administration around does not change the actual product or service that is delivered (whether by a school, a company or an individual). The bureaucratic noose is the idea that a single national curriculum policed by a single body is a good idea. It’s not. We know that monopolies are bad, we know that the great 20th century experiment with communism failed. So too any single approach is bound to fail eventually. People change, the needs change, society changes, technology advances, but the bureaucracy just keeps on squeezing and tinkering incrementally.

Our system has driven out independent leadership by making schools subservient to central government diktat, which has focused on metrics that measure a narrow range of exam skills. Those metrics serve the politicians, but not the people for whom they are designed. So we now have learning objectives, rather than education. Schools are driven to a dependency culture, and headteachers are no longer measured by their ability to educate children, but by ensuring that the system is satisfied with exam results (and the implementation of audit trails that confirm adherence to risk reduction and other safety measures). Failure will not be tolerated!
To be clear, this is not a question of the people in the system – the teachers, the education professionals, those working to prepare our children for life. The education profession is staffed by highly committed people who are invariably motivated and dedicated to doing a great job – but they are constrained by the system. They are stuck in their little paddling boat on a creek when they need to get out onto the high sea to get the freedom they need.

Those who have seen how independent schools switched seamlessly to teaching online as lockdown bolted us indoors will know what independence can do. Within 2 weeks they had learnt how to deliver the full curriculum online and spent the Easter holidays making adaptations from their learnings (note I didn’t say failures). They then delivered a full term of education to their pupils and students. Everything from art, to maths to PE and sports.

PE and Sports during lockdown?
Yes, as we know from Joe Wicks and others, keeping physically active is entirely possible in lockdown. When I asked a teachers and heads about continuing to deliver their curriculum online, the best response I had was, “I’d not thought we could do that, we’ve not had any guidance”, and the worst was, “but some of my students don’t have computers or internet access”.
Those same educators also told me proudly that the school had a large number (I forget exactly the number) of computers in school – presumably not being used. Could these, maybe, just maybe, have been sent home with those children who did not have access to a computer, with a USB SIM card to give them internet access? Central government guidelines were not produced for that particular idea, so those stuck in the system would naturally prefer to avoid taking any unnecessary risks.

So what’s the answer?
In my next blog I’ll examine ideas for how the system could be changed. Ideas are cheap; the work in identifying things that actually work in practice. Questions we might ask are,

• “Why do we need a national curriculum when exams are the test?” Surely it’s the (expert) teacher who is best able figure out the curriculum for their particular pupils and local culture & needs so that pupils are ready for the test.

• “Why do we need GCSEs? When O-levels were invented, 93% of students left school at 16. Now 93% stay on in education. So what’s the point?”

• “How are exam results compatible with creating a “growth mindset”? The very essence of a growth mindset is focus on effort and the process, not the outcome. Yet we measure outcome.

• “What are the alternatives to a Victorian classroom setting that will facilitate and speed up education and learning?”. We know physical activity is essential to building a well balanced brain, yet 80% of children don’t do the minimum to stave off inactivity related diseases.

• “How might we allow real diversity in schools and between schools?”. This means accepting different metrics for success. We know that setting minimum standards has a tendency to reduce overall standards, so what’s the alternative?

The answers are available. Let’s explore them, and redesign the system before it breaks us.