Exercising the right to teach

26th January 2007 at 00:00
Taking PE lessons requires a lot more than a pile of coaching certificates

Teachers, like much of the population, tend to regard politics with a healthy degree of cynicism. Each new directive, policy or procedure is eyed with suspicion and weighed up according to their teaching and their pupils.

So, back in 2004, when the Scottish Executive announced its grand plan to have 400 qualified PE teachers in primary schools by 2008, it is likely that the collective "humph" from the nation's staff rooms was audible in Holyrood.

I had ambitions to be a secondary PE teacher. As a fifth-year pupil I even got a day off school to travel to Cramond campus at Moray House to look round and chat at the open day. Though the thought of doing gymnastics and "interpretive dance" at an interview rather put me off.

So it was that I found myself at Jordanhill, studying towards a BA in Sport in the Community, filled with thoughts of becoming something in community sports development or some sort of coaching.

As the years of the course rolled by, the coaching certificates piled up and I realised that the interaction with people and working with them on a programme or through play-leading was what I wanted to do.

Via many twists and turns - working in call centres, putting up posters, selling computers, freelance journalism - I eventually found myself working as a classroom assistant in an Edinburgh primary. Within a year, I'd started the PGCE in primary teaching at Edinburgh University and another year down the line had my own class - a lovely P3 of 31 children.

As part of my professional development, I observed the PE lessons my class were having with a specialist teacher during my time out. What struck me most was how well organised and prepared these lessons were and how inadequate I felt in terms of delivering something similar. I'd had little guidance throughout the course on how to plan and manage PE lessons, particularly with the younger age group. Even with years of experience, I still didn't feel I had the skills to implement a successful PE block with such a large, mixed ability group.

Specialist sports coaching tends to focus on one-to-one or small group work, often looking at fine technical nuances with participants who want to be there and have all the right kit. Groups who turn up for coaching don't generally come with Oscar-winning excuses for lost gym shoes or sore ankles which miraculously get better as soon as the lesson finishes.

Five years down the line, I've found myself with my own class after a two-year stint of doing a bit of this and a bit of that. Again, my time out is being covered by a PE specialist and I've decided that it's time to "upskill" and de-liver the PE programme properly.

So I'm calling their bluff. I'm telling the executive that there are committed teachers out there who want to do their bit for the health of the nation's children and that we want to be lifelong learners too. I've signed up to a distance learning PGCE in primary physical education in partnership with my employers, Highland Council and Glasgow University.

I'm excited. I think it will be good and I would love to let you know how it's going in the hope that others might want to join in too.

Now, if I could only find those trainers...

Bryan Gregg teaches at Acharacle Primary, Highland

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