PLPS: A review of lockdown

As the lockdown restrictions slowly begin to ease off and there is light at the end of the tunnel, we decided to reflect on yet another lockdown and how it impacted our work in local primary schools. Chris Debar, PE Manager for the Community Trust, shares how the last few months have gone. 

New Year ‘New Start’ is usually the term that’s thrown around at the beginning of the calendar year, but unfortunately that didn’t last long as we entered another national lockdown following the first day back in schools. 

Being able to provide support within PE and physical activity to schools and pupils who needed it was of the upmost importance to us. 

As always, we offered our support to those primary schools that we work with and continued to provide a variety of physical activity sessions in school for those pupils that remained. This time round the number of pupils in school were higher due to the key worker criteria expanding and more schools required support than the first lockdown back in 2020. 

As we had supported schools previously, our staff had become confident in delivering sessions that were ‘COVID safe’. They deliver in a range of schools who all have different procedures and protocols to follow. The team have done fantastic in being able to respond and act accordingly to different environments they have been placed in. 

Continuing this support was important for many reasons, but it also helped ensure our primary schools team kept some form of working routine, which was vital for their own mental and physical well-being.

“Working throughout lockdown has really helped provide me with a routine that helped my own mental well-being, knowing that I had something to get out of bed for and have a purpose. It’s allowed me to be able to enjoy my weekend knowing I had worked throughout the week, so time off could really be enjoyed”. 

It’s been a challenging time for everyone, getting use to where we can go, what we can do, how many people we can see. Rules and guidance seem to have changed frequently, and so too has the role our staff have played in primary schools. It’s not been easy at times but I must admit, the team have cracked on and accepted any challenges and situations that have come their way, taking it all in their stride. 

“My role as a PE Officer has changed during the pandemic and the numerous lockdowns. There’s been periods of being unable to work, working with 4 pupils in a group and back to a full group. It’s challenged my ability to deliver but there’s also been positives, as working with a reduced number has meant I have had more time to get to know the children better and understand their individual needs.

COVID has reminded me just how important our role in schools can be and in some instances we have contributed to being the ‘constant’ to a lot of children’s lives during a difficult time”. 

To all our school team and all the school staff that have worked continuously throughout the last year, in difficult circumstances, we massively thank you! 

School Highlights 

One of our partner schools that we supported during lockdown was Unity Academy, a school whose relationship goes further than just providing PE and School Sport activities. 

Marc Joseph, Head of Early Years and Primary Provision, said:

“Chris’ team have carried out an amazing job to continue to provide quality physical activity provision to our partner schools during a very difficult time. The team have work hard to adapt delivery to ensure the safety of pupils and staff. Being able to provide this service to schools such as Unity Academy has helped strengthen the partnership between organisation and school. Working with the school we are able to utilise Unity Academy’s amazing facilities to deliver sports camp during half term, walking football to the over 50’s and Tiny Tangerines mini football sessions. In term time the Primary school has free access to ‘Fit2Go’ our Year 4 healthy lifestyle programme and the Year 6 PSHE programme, Unstoppable. The Trust also now support the High School with a High School Hub Officer who is placed on site two days a week for the whole year. Their role is to deliver a range of provision from helping Year 7 with transition, through to Year 11 revision and exam prep. The wrap around support embraced by the school highlights how, with a school on board the Community Trust can play a huge part in the improvement of the health and development of Blackpool residents”.

Throughout the lockdown period we provided weekly sessions to pupils from Year 1 through to Year 6, to help provide them with the opportunity to be physically active for a prolonged period of time. The pupils found this to be beneficial, as Beth Latham, Assistant headteacher, explained. 

The lockdown support has allowed the students to continue to access high level sports provision. This has provided physical activities to help support healthy bodies but also healthy minds. COVID 19 has been difficult for many of the children and exercise helps to support their well being both physically and mentally. It has also been an opportunity for the children to take part in (COVID safe) team games to develop their social interaction with others, another skill that has been affected so much by their time away from peers.”

Alekks, a year 1 pupil, really enjoyed the games he participated in, saying “I really like the lessons. I like it when we play the Superhero game. At the end I feel happy and sweaty”. 

We love that you like being sweaty Alekks, it shows you’ve worked hard! Keep it up in all your future PE related sessions! 

The Future 

We are now approaching the Easter break and for the last two weeks all primary school pupils have returned to school. We have continued our provision in schools to help with the re-integration of those pupils who have not seen their classmates since 4th January. The team have helped work on communication skills, being able to work as a team and the importance of resilience, all whilst having pupils be physically active. There’s no other subject like PE. 

Physical activity and the benefits of participating in it both physically and mentally are not new. They have been known about for years. It’s a real shame that it has taken a global pandemic for people outside the PE and physical activity world to listen and take note. I try and be a glass half full person, so I’m hopeful that now it’s been spoken about in the public domain as much as it has in the last 12 months, that the Government will act quickly on the future of the Primary PE and Sports Premium funding. It is due to conclude at the end of this academic year and schools will need adequate time to plan accordingly. 

My hope is that those with the power ensure that PE and physical activity are put at the top of the priority list whenever ‘normal’ returns. I also hope the word ‘unprecedented’ never gets used again. 

One thing I know for sure is that we will always be a strong advocate for PE and physical activity, and whether the PE and Sport Premium funding continues or not, we will still be here, supporting our schools, our pupils and our community. Pupils like Alekks need us to be.

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