How COVID-19 has enabled us to reignite our intra-school competition programme

Ross McNeil, Head of Year 8 and House Enrichment Leader at King Edward VII Academy, blogs about the return to PE.

The ‘new normal’ is a huge challenge for all schools, but it also presents opportunities for us to be agile. At King Edward VII Academy in Norfolk, we’ve used this opportunity to review our intra-school competition programme. We’ve relaunched a house system based on our school’s eight values: passion, self-belief, respect, honesty, determination, teamwork, creativity and empathy, coincidentally six of which are also the School Games values.

“The house system is a long standing tradition at the school and has been running since 1896… It brings a real sense of community. Even though year groups are separated in ‘Bubbles’ they can still contribute to a common goal”. 

Sarah Hartshorn, Principal

The wellbeing of our staff and students is our priority. Every Wednesday is a wellbeing day where staff have an after-school session together. For those children and young people who have been or are affected by COVID-19, we’re giving them tailored support focusing on wellbeing. 

   What’s worked for us:

  1. We began the first two weeks of term with a daily wellbeing mile walk where all staff and students walk and talk together in a safe way. There’s also an inter-form quiz as part of this, which helps build feelings of connection across bubbles.
  2. Pupils come to school in PE kit, which has enabled 100% attendance from year 7 to 11 in PE lessons and full subscription to extra-curricular activity. It has also given maximum time to being active as there is no time spent changing. This time saved has been used to assist with our equipment cleaning strategy too. Students can also come in kit on days where they haven’t got timetabled PE but are attending an extra-curricular club.
  3. Our bubble clubs are extra-curricular clubs that maintain the integrity of the bubble system. Each day of the week hosts a different year group and our current offer includes badminton, table tennis, netball and football (small sided games) as they are able to achieve the desired intent but also build from PE lessons. The clubs focus on sense of belonging and creating a safe environment, with pupils contributing to house points through attendance and the behaviours exhibited. This has changed the dynamics of extra-curricular activities at King Edward VII. For example, 72 children are now attending our Year 7 football bubble activity, with 24 of them being girls.  
  4. To provide enrichment opportunities, we’re introducing foot golf for sixth formers and staff. GCSE students are also organising and delivering their own extra-curricular sessions in line with COVID-19 guidelines (overseen by a teacher), demonstrating their leadership skills and developing other key life skills in the process.
  5. Different captains are selected for each week of bubble clubs to grow self-esteem and give every child their chance to lead. This is working really well.
  6.  We’ve engaged parents through emails, social media and updates given to students in every tutorial. We give clear information on what will be happening, measures put in place and information on pick up after sessions. 

It’s not about being good at it – it’s about being part of it. The children are desperate for the interaction and engagement with each other through sport. As a school we’ve ensured that we follow all the guidelines and the students have been exemplary in following them. 

Ross McNeill

For further information, guidance and resources on PE and school sport, take a look at our return to school support webpages.