«Developing the Potential of Young People in Sport A report for sportscotland by The University of Edinburgh Developing the Potential of Young People ...»
What's your overall objective? I would say the overall objective of DPYPS is to let pupils or let children maximise their potential in sport, in any kind of sporting activity. And that's what you're trying to do. So therefore when they come to maximising their potential, you'll have the elite who are better and you'll have the basic level who are, again, at a higher level but also keen and enthusiastic to take part. So therefore if you're then looking at governing bodies later on, looking at selection, you've got higher levels to select from, and you've also got different pupils who are aware of the characteristics that it requires to be a good sports person or to get involved and have these ingrained in them already.
I think it's very important and good coaches will take a holistic approach. I think a good coach will consider the whole development of the child, so that they'll not only be focusing on working in a specific area or a specific sport; they'll be also looking at how good are their movement skills? Are they good enough? Are they going to progress in that area? What's their mental approach? How do they work with others? What are their interpersonal skills? So a good coach will probably take all that into consideration. Whereas somebody who's maybe not as effective will certainly concentrate on just how good are you at playing tennis or how good are you at rugby. And I think it's important for the coach to embrace the whole package, very much like most teachers, in the whole, would.
These participants felt that a good understanding of the philosophy allowed teachers and coaches to be flexible with the content of what they teach, allowing them to adapt to the youngsters that they have. Unfortunately, they saw fellow professionals as often confined to teaching a curriculum or set of lessons regardless of their appropriateness to the children and with little or no guidance on what the key emphasis should be through their teaching methodology and content. As such, the clear philosophy and its articulation to method was a positive feature.
Well, I could go to the library and pick up a package and teach a series of lessons and what have you. The main thing for this is that it's important that the teachers know what they're trying to achieve and what the programme's trying to achieve in that they can then adapt, they can use their strengths, they can use their own teaching methodologies, they can really be flexible with it. They can choose where they're going to put it in the curriculum and that's the importance. If they've got an understanding of the philosophies, then they can be incredibly flexible in how they use it. And that's the important thing to me, as well as following the philosophies and understanding them. Whereas TOPS or other packages are, there you go, there's a programme of lessons, go and teach them.
Many involved in DPYPS have reported back to the seconded teachers asking why it has taken so long for someone to implement this kind of philosophy in schools and sports clubs.
Just generally, everybody that's come across the project has wondered why it's taken so long for somebody actually to implement this philosophy because everybody thinks it makes sense and it's worthwhile to do.
As an important qualification on the programme, one participant expressed a need for it to be kept in perspective, and a tight rein kept on its aims and objectives. Its remit is within sport development with some obvious cross-over to physical activity promotion. However claims for its use across the curriculum should not be incorporated as outcomes, just as a nice addition if they occur.
I think that the programme in itself is educational and I think that the resources are useful in other aspects of the curriculum but I think we should be careful in getting lost down the route of what else can be developed to the curriculum. I think we need to be very, very cautious and very careful on that and our focus should be developing sporting ability and I think therefore it may need to be more explicit of this objective, you know, and the contributions that these mental skills can make to improving sporting performance maybe needs to be clearer. Clearer for teachers.
Anything else is an absolute bonus and we know the implications it has on other aspects of the curriculum. We know the benefits we can have.
However, we've just got to be very careful about going down that path or it works on everything and it's the be all and end all of everything. Because let's think of our objectives here. Our objectives of the programme is to develop sporting … improve sporting performance. Nail down what we're going for and anything else is a bonus.
Current Practice – Where Are We?
The seconded teachers noted that the vast majority of current PE and associated programmes are sport specific. The children often aren’t good enough to cope and it can lead to negative experiences for many, leading to poor participation and development. The basics need to be taught and revisited even for those who are good or older. The earlier these skills can be introduced and the earlier we can enthuse the kids about physical activity the better.
The education system operates in a block system where specific physical activities are taught, therefore sport specific skills and practices are the focus and this includes TOPS. Often, children do not possess the movement competence to produce these sometimes very complex sport specific skills. Furthermore, quite often, pupils are taught to play just the game without the prerequisite skill development taking place first and this can lead to very negative experiences for a lot of kids. If pupils do not have the perceived or actual skill to take part in the activity, it provides a significant barrier to participation and without participation, you don't get attainment and you get problems.
I think that there's huge problems with teaching it in the system the way we do teach at the moment and, again, it comes down to individual teachers but teaching a block some way we've got sport specific. For example, volleyball. Quite often, we're trying to teach kids to dig and to volley the ball and they simply can't move to the ball in the first place, you know, they haven't got the movement competency, so we try to almost teach B without teaching A first. And we expect a lot of kids to just develop naturally their running or jumping or throwing and catching skills. But when you actually look at them, they don't have them and that therefore leads to they don't like volleyball, ‘I can't do volleyball’. You get the sort of vicious circle then of non participation and that's a thing and then if you're looking for overall attainment, you don't have it. You can't get it if you're not getting participation.
I think there's certainly a requirement for a drastic improvement in basic movement skills and you can see this in secondary schools. I think we very much try to teach sport specific skills to pupils who simply aren't at a level they can cope with them.
While the seconded teachers felt that some teachers would touch on the mental and attitudinal aspects of development, they would not necessarily do so in an explicit way. Indeed, they suggested that children tend to chance upon good physical experiences and it would depend on who your teacher was or whether your school happened to have a specialist. DPYPS is a method of making these kinds of positive experiences more systematic and explicit.
They would touch on them and that's a thing a good teacher or a good coach would probably bring many of these aspects up. For instance, goal setting. You would do goal setting on a daily basis within a school.
However, how much you actually sit down and teach a child to goal set or mentally image or use focus and distraction control is … I don't think it happens a great deal.
I think it was very patchy before. It's difficult to say how much their needs were catered for before. I think it varies from school to school, from class to class how much … on the teacher's ability, the teacher's interest, the input of PE specialists. There's huge gaps within that and therefore, you know, you can't condemn all of it because there's some excellent stuff going on. But it is very patchy and the tighter we can get it, the better.
The seconded teachers noted that NGBs did cover a lot of gaps in primary schools, but there is a need to be careful because if they are too sport specific or utilise early selection procedures it may put a lot of kids off. Both stressed a need for a philosophy that encourages children to be involved for as long as possible.
Accordingly, they suggested, NGBs need to align their philosophy with this and realise that producing more children of better all-round ability at early stages will benefit them as well.
The governing bodies are doing a lot of work in primary schools at the moment and they're really covering a gap in PE, in that there's so limited amount of PE at times in some primary schools that it's ideal for governing bodies just to say... right, we'll come in and do a class, we can work with the class or work with the school on a programme. But we need to be very careful about how sport specific they actually are on those sessions.
Because as well as enthusing a few kids, you know, they might equally turn others off by being too sport specific and teaching skills that are essentially too difficult when they've not got the basic movement. So if you can get at these taster sessions which involve a lot of movement skills, alright you can say it's rugby but it's still teaching a lot of movement skills, then you're kind of working on the two and then being very, very wary about who you're selecting, if you select at all. You know, your model should be as many as possible participating for as long as possible.
If the DPYPS produces kids who have got a much higher level of competence, both perceived and actual levels of competence, at movement skills, you're going to start the kids off at a higher level when you come in to do sport specific. And you'll maybe have them more confident at trying new sports and therefore it helps and underpins what they're doing and then also you can sort of push that on to an even higher level, so you've got the likes of your transitions programme. But you need to have awareness in the governing bodies of what's going on and what the schools do and what DPYPS is all about and maybe a slight change in philosophy behind some of the governing bodies.
Coherent Development of the Philosophy is Required to Maximise Developments The seconded teachers emphasised that the philosophy underpinning the DPYPS programme could beneficially provide a coherent drive to many of the initiatives currently running. This would mean that a wide range of deliverers would be pushing in the same direction providing consistent ongoing experiences to children through many different initiatives.
If you look at some of the things that the Council do, you've got the TOPS curriculum, TOPS community, active primary school co-ordinators, school sports co-ordinators, you've got visiting PE specialists, sports development children's services and what we try to do is we try to work in joint teams or teams of working, you know. So we're trying to get integration and as I've mentioned before, it can link a lot of these things together so that if you've got your active primary school co-ordinators aware of the programme and pushing DPYPS as well, that can go into your TOPS community, your TOPS curriculum. It can then be supported by your visiting PE specialist. It can then be, if your sports development officers are aware of what's going on, they can also support it and try to push the same philosophies, your children's services and then into your secondary schools. So it can link a lot of different services.
DPYPS can work as very much a part of an integrated approach within the authority and it underpins what I think the authority is very much trying to do, philosophies behind it that it's inclusive, that it requires a team approach and support from other agencies. It's not just something that should stand on its own but I think it's something that does require a team approach from all different agencies and different levels.
It's quite difficult to argue with the philosophy of DPYPS. I think when you try and pick faults with it, it's difficult to find the real faults in the philosophy. I think it could very much provide a switch of emphasis, you know, a switch of emphasis and a sort of knitting together a lot of things rather than a total re-think. It's not so much a total re-think. It's just a switching of emphasis and maybe just knitting things together and that's where I think DPYPS could come in and really play an important part.
Finally, the seconded teachers noted that although the philosophy is seen as something that could tie together many initiatives and provide coherent aims, content and methodology, in the short time span DPYPS has been running it has yet to impact on the big picture.
I think it had a damn good try at it but unfortunately in ‘AREA’, I don't think it did. But it's the same problem that our sports co-ordinator's are having.
It's the volunteers that run these things. It's trying to get these volunteers in the first place and then trying to coordinate them between each other.
Again, it's not as far as I'm aware, it's not a DPYPS programme issue. It's a local issue.
The first questions related to teachers’ understanding of the philosophy of DPYPS.
All of the primary school teachers showed an awareness of the importance of developing generic basic skills if children are to be competent, and perceive themselves as competent, within the physical setting. The belief by teachers that there is a need to provide children with opportunities to develop these basic skills is articulated by the following quotes.
I think the skills [being taught within DPYPS] are transferable across a range of different areas of the sport curriculum. Running for example, you’re teaching the basics of how to run properly which can transfer across to basketball or can transfer to football or can transfer to athletics, whatever. So yes, I think it is fully transferable and that’s where I think it’s good. You’re not doing a block on basketball, and leading up to playing the final game of basketball; you’re doing a block which may start with you doing running and then you introduce ball skills, etc. But they can all be transferred across to other areas.