Help for non-specialists
Support materials for specialist and non-specialist teachers of physical education have proliferated recently, some more meritorious than others.
My reservation with the general thrust of so many of these publications is that they manifestly fail to cater for the non-specialist teacher. They tend to adopt unquestioningly the mindset of expert teachers at the expense of the readers they were conceived for.
The NQT Starter Pack for PE in two A4-sized wallets (key stages 1 and 2, and key stages 3 and 4) goes some way to remedying this. The assumption behind the resource pack is that non-specialist, would-be teachers of PE are inadequately prepared for their task and that their job would be made easier by the support this packs offers.
Somewhat ambitiously, the pack aims to provide "the confidence and a basic toolkit to start teaching the children's favourite subject to a high standard and in a safe and stress-free learning environment." A browse through the contents reveals that perennial anxieties are addressed: safety, class management, inclusiveness, the PE curriculum, units of work (dance and health-related fitness for KS3-4, gymnastics, dance and games KS1-2), contacts and resources, PE funding and wall posters. Of these, I found the funding booklet the most original and useful.
The approach is a prosaic, nuts-and-bolts one and a genuine opportunity for teaching improvement is missed. A good teaching resource should do more than plug the gaps of perceived incompetence and might legitimately aspire to promoting children's learning. Teaching is about more than recycling the good practice of past and present. While agreeing that NQTs' time shouldn't be squandered on reinventing the wheel, I hope that by autonomous thinking NQTs might in time enhance the body of knowledge that presently constitutes good practice. It is therefore regrettable that opportunities for critical self-reflection do not form an integral component of this pack.
A scan through the impressive array of contributors (particularly for KS3-4) confirms the worthiness of the pack's contents. So would I recommend it to my PGCE primary and secondary NQTs? Yes: reservations aside, I empathise with the publisher's recognition of the important role NQTs will play in the future of PE and the point, "you can make a difference" is well made. The claim that the resource is produced "with the newly qualified, non-specialist teacher in mind" is unnecessarily restrictive. The content is helpful and accessible, and will provide a useful reference for all aspiring teachers of PE, although the price of pound;35 does seem excessive.
Frank Rowe is deputy director of the Sports Centre at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth