2 students playing catch
students running across the court
row of students sat on the bench
2 students playing tag rugby

What makes a successful P.E. department?

Posted: 30th November 2023

row of students sat on the bench

Recently we caught up with our Physical Education team, to discuss what makes a great P.E provision at any school. Led by our new Director of Sport Mr. Maxwell, here is what they had to say.

At Greenfield, we pride ourselves on providing sporting opportunities for all. A concept embedded in the idea that we wish for children to fall in love with a sport or physical activity and take it beyond their Greenfield education, whether they play competitively or for fun.

We offer a varied curriculum including dance and swimming as well as the skills to play team sports in the Early Years and Lower School. From as early as Year 1, children at Greenfield will be taught how to throw a javelin. In the Middle and Upper School, children have athletics lessons with a complement of traditional team sports. All our lessons are underpinned by key life skills; we promote teamwork, sportsmanship, resilience and perseverance. Further to this, we provide opportunities to try some alternative sports, such as badminton, volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, orienteering and tri-golf.

We are proud of the effect this has on our pupils. A key example is a child who joined us when he was in Year 3; he disliked PE at his old school and took part very reluctantly, then he came to Greenfield. He explains that ‘PE is great because we get to play a mixture of sports, boys and girls are often mixed together and girls at Greenfield get to play football too!’  Having been exposed to such a variety of activities, we hope that even children who have previously not enjoyed PE will find a passion or a hobby that they can take part in away from the school environment or participate in in the future.

This variety in the curriculum is possible because of our outstanding facilities. Having an extensive field allows us to have multiple football and tag-rugby pitches in the winter and a 200m track with an 80m sprint in the summer. The multi-court Sports Hall allows us to teach volleyball and basketball, as well as enrichment sessions such as circuit training and team-building activities. Our Dance Studio provides the children a space to perform their movements whilst developing their proprioceptive abilities. The School Gym has become our designated space for teaching Early Years PE, housing a plethora of equipment to develop the children’s gross motor skills during their early development. We have invested in a gymnastic floor mat that nearly covers the entire floor; younger children can safely use soft play equipment to develop strength and confidence in their jumping and mobility exercises.

As the school has expanded and evolved, so has our capacity to play competitive sports. Previously competing against small schools, we now compete against larger prep and state schools to challenge our children. We believe that if we don’t challenge the children, they will never know what they are truly capable of. Many of these schools have a more traditional approach to Prep School sport, with intense training on a select few sports, rather than a broad approach. Once far out of our reach competitively, we are proud to be “firm rivals” with larger schools in the wider Surrey area.

Whilst we prefer a wide-spread approach to our sports provision, developing a focused, competitive edge to the children’s gameplay is still a key part of our PE sessions, honing learned techniques and allowing players to achieve finesse in their strategy. Lessons always conclude with competitive matches; sometimes these are modified games, and at other times they reflect all of the rules and strategies of the real game. Some children relish the opportunity to play against other schools, whilst some require a little more coaxing before they feel comfortable facing this type of pressure. We try to ensure that every year, each child in Years 3-6 can represent the school in at least one sporting activity.

Fixtures happen in games lessons each week for Years 3-6 and teams are picked according to the ability of the competition and ability of our children. We also enter tournaments as well as run our own, often with over 10+ teams from Prep and State schools in the Woking and Guildford areas. Greenfield children compete at local sports festivals too; these are often unlike our usual fixtures, including divisions such as Athletics, Racket Pack Badminton, Cross Country, tennis and gymnastics. If we are offered the opportunity to attend something, we always try to say yes! Our children are proud to represent our school, one child said playing for a sports team gave them the opportunity to “make new friends, and enjoy the feeling of belonging to a team.”

Despite not following the traditional Prep School model and instead focusing on a diverse range of sports, we still strive for success and train our children to achieve their best. Some of our pupils play for clubs outside of school, but many do not and we have had great success this year. Our U11 girls netball team this year have been not only the first-ever Greenfield team sent to compete at the IAPS tournament level, but they also won the district tournament. The U11 boys football team represented Greenfield at St George’s Park, the home of English National Football. We were immensely proud that the team made it through to the National Finals of the ISFA 7s. We didn’t make it through after our group matches, but this was no surprise as two teams in our group made it to the final and we drew with the winner in the group stage!

We hire PE staff with specific expertise and each time a new recruit is hired, we aim to expand our knowledge. If your child excels in a particular sport, they will be educated in lesson time by the most qualified member of PE staff, holding qualifications in this field. The PE department boasts highly qualified teachers, holding the following qualifications; Physical Education teaching degree, Sports and Exercise Science degree with a diploma in sports coaching and UEFA A Licence Football Coaching. Children who show promise in one sport may signposted by the PE Department to local clubs. Children in Middle and Upper School may also be invited to attend Sports Masters, a club which aims to develop sports skills to enable our children to apply for sports scholarships to Senior Schools. In addition to this 1:1 or small group coaching may be provided.

As a team of sports teachers, we know sports changes all the time and so does the teaching profession. We constantly reflect on our practice and try to find the formula that works. We know our children and try to match the needs of each group with a tailored programme of study and pace that suits them. We know that every child has the desire to enjoy some element of physical activity and it is our job to help them find it and help them to compete at their level.

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