I am delighted this week to be able to bring you a guest blog from our Director of Sport, Mrs Ross.
It was during a Year 4 PE lesson when I asked the pupils ‘how many of you own a skipping rope?’ it got me thinking about how times have changed. Skipping provides much more than just a fun way of playing with friends, but somehow a simple and inexpensive item such as a skipping rope is not the ‘must have’ item in our households these days. Skipping promotes balance, coordination, rhythm, timing and athletic ability in jumping, all of which are key areas in a child’s physical competency and development, yet it was evident that 2 pupils out of a class of 13 could actually skip confidently. In a world dominated by technology we see wonderful things on social media, online educational games, learning tools and a way of connecting with the world on a new level. All this is very beneficial and it is the future but I can’t help but wonder if we ever stop to think ‘do we allow kids to just play?’ For the majority of us, growing up was going outside and running around until it got dark then we came indoors for the evening. It was a game we invented with siblings and friends who we interacted with and laughed and cried with over who was breaking the rules and ‘cheating’. We climbed trees, made obstacle courses, performed death defying stunts on our bikes, grazed our knees and dusted them off just as quickly. My hope is that modern technology is encouraging children to be active and not sedentary, there are many ways in which technology can promote healthy lifestyles and it is important we as parents and teachers encourage them to be used in a positive way. I have seen an explosion in gadgets such as ‘fit bits’ and the use of ‘my fitness pal’ apps and know that there are ways and means of creating wonderful outcomes from the use of technology. I mean don’t get me wrong, I have been prone to doing an online ‘Joe Wicks’ workout in our senior girls fitness sessions! For some, the best childhood memories are spent outdoors doing the simple things, being active and socialising, to lose this would be a real shame.
This has led me to think about how lucky I am to have a job where I feel I can make a difference. At Exeter Cathedral School we pride ourselves in putting the FUN into Sport. With a ‘sport for all, sport for life’ ethos it is about getting all children involved, discovering confidence and developing a love for being active and healthy. We want pupils to leave in Year 8 with a love for physical activity and a passion to continue to explore everything their future has to offer.
Despite what the some people say, PE and Games are not the same, we distinguish between the two and make it clear to pupils that PE is a time to develop fundamental movement skills and patterns that are needed to produce robust, strong and athletic individuals who can turn their hand to any sport they desire because they have established strong foundations. Our new schemes of learning provide the opportunity for FUN while not really even knowing that we are moving our bodies in ways that will aid our development. Games afternoons and fixtures provide a platform for children to sample our major sports, they promote discipline, teamwork, competition and the opportunity to learn, not only new skills but match etiquette and humility through winning or losing.
Every child from Reception to Year 5 has PE and swimming once a week as well as 2 Games sessions a week throughout the Prep School. This is a far cry from when I was younger and also a lot more than other schools are able to offer. I am grateful to ECS for allocating so much of the timetable to physical activity, it is important that alongside the busy lifestyles of our pupils, that they have the outlet of switching off and getting fresh air, and it is scientifically proven to aid academic progress.
When they reach Year 6, 7 and 8 the pupils enter a carousel of Health and Wellbeing modules, Sports Nutrition, Sports Leadership and Health Related Fitness. All of which are centred round sport and how we prepare for sport. It is an education about fuelling, recovering and reaching full potential within chosen fields in sport and how they may overcome hurdles in modern society. The introduction of the Sports Enrichment Programme on Tuesday mornings also provides those who wish to push for external sports scholarships. The pupils train hard and push themselves to prepare of assessment days with the hope of achieving a scholarship to their next school. We look at strength, agility, flexibility, power and aerobic fitness, all of which are performed under test conditions to simulate a potential assessment day.
All of these wonderful things would not be possible without the PE and Games staff we have at ECS. Each member of staff goes above and beyond to provide opportunities for the pupils, late nights, weekends and that extra little bit of care. Examples are of the recent events organised for the pupils, Exeter Chiefs Experience Day, Team bath Netball Trip this term, the creation of positive new links with Energie Gym, Exeter Chiefs and Devon Athletics Association. I am very lucky to have such a talented department to work alongside, all of whom are very modest and you probably don’t know too much about their personal lives. Without naming and shaming I shall mention the wealth of talent who share their knowledge and experience daily with your children. We have top level club rugby, hockey and cricket players, club coaches, an International water polo player, an International hockey player, Exeter Harriers runner, marathon runners, 10k runners, a personal trainer…….to name a few. When I asked a couple of members of the PE and Games department (I must say it was a little under duress) why they enjoy teaching PE and Games they said, ‘it is a privilege to see the development and progression of the pupils and to see them in a different light outside of the classroom’, it is evident that pupils will thrive with this positive mind set and the guidance available.
It is clear that this school is a community; it is supportive, comforting and nurturing in all aspects of school life. Sport is much more than we think, it shapes our future.
‘Physical activity is not only one of the important keys to a healthy body; it is the basis to dynamic and creative intellectual activity.’
Mrs E. Ross
Director of Sport