Newport Junior teacher Sophie George discusses benefits of school sport

Posted 4th December 2015

A newly qualified teacher in her first year at Newport Junior School, Sophie George is fully aware of the role that sport plays in helping a young person’s learning. Sophie, who hopes to transition into a sport based teaching role in the future, believes that high quality physical education can have huge benefits on a child’s social, emotional, moral and academic achievements. In this article, she expands on her thoughts around the impact sport can have in schools and discusses the importance of establishing its place within the curriculum.

I decided at a very young age that I wanted to be a teacher; it really was something that I always wanted to do! As I’ve always had a close and enjoyable relationship with sport, the decision to specialise in PE was the next natural step. It’s something that I’m passionate about and confident that I will be able to excel in during my future career.

Thus far, I’ve been very impressed with the quality of teaching on offer at Newport Junior, where we are lucky enough to have an excellent sports coach that oversees our outdoor physical education. We have been registered on the School Games website since 2012 and consider it to be an excellent tool for organising our events and striving towards achieving recognizable accreditation for our work and dedication to sport.

However, I am all too aware that not everyone can be so lucky, and that the standard of school sport elsewhere could be improved. Many teachers don’t feel confident in running a PE lesson – including one of my secondary school teachers, who preferred to watch proceedings from a chair rather than get involved and interact with us – and it’s important that PE is not undervalued when compared with the core subjects.

Not only does PE help kick start children on their physical literacy journey, but it also helps them develop skills needed for everyday life, such as the fine motor control needed for handwriting, or the communication skills needed for talking to different people and being able to adapt to different situations. Furthermore, children who are not naturally academic often thrive in the types of environment that physical education produces. If they start to grow confident in PE, this can then transfer into the classroom and allow them to begin showing their progress in other areas.

In the future, I hope that I will be able to take up a senior leadership role where I can begin to pass on my vision and values for education to other people, especially in terms of physical education and the role it can play within schools.

I believe that a balance needs to be struck with school sport to ensure that it appeals to as many young people as possible. Sport should be fun, but children also need to be exposed to competitive sports so that they can learn sportsmanship and the feeling of winning or losing in a safe environment. For some children, losing can be hard for them to take and deal with. But equally, others are unsure on how to deal with the feeling of success – and would rather shy away, rather than be noticed for doing something well.

The enjoyment factor needs to start from a young age to ensure that those young people remain invested in sport throughout their lives. The same applies to a child with a disability. You need to look at what kind of barrier is restricting their ability to learn and enjoy – and then adapt the lesson to meet that need.

From my experience of special schools, they really value physical education and encourage children to take part in sports, but mainstream schools won’t have a lot of the same specialised equipment which is required for them to take part. Even so, lessons can normally be adapted, and often you only need to ask the child and they’ll be able to give you a suitable alternative on their own.

It’s often these kinds of scenarios – in which there is a need to adapt – which give us the most joy as teachers. My biggest achievement so far has been working with a child who sometimes struggles with emotions and self control, and getting them to think about their actions before doing something wrong. I hope that by using PE as a tool, I can help develop this further.

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