Discuss critically the extent to which the School Sport Partnership Programme is providing high quality PESS for all young people. You should make reference to at least two of the four elements involved in the programme (NCPE, informal physical activity, competition, and out of school hours learning).
Over recent years the theoretical assumptions and policy agendas in school sporting activity has altered markedly. Above all, whereas Physical Education (PE) was once viewed as a fairly static and inward discipline, recent developments have transformed this narrow understanding. Therefore, new theoretical assumptions have been directly translated into practical policy developments. The most striking example of this shift in thinking can be seen with the conceptual idea of Physical Education and School Sport (PESS). Thus, PESS as opposed to PE has widened the understanding of how physical activities enhance the agency and life prospects of young people (Bailey & Kirk, 2009). Furthermore, the increasing focus being placed on PESS has also exemplified the essential sociological role played by PESS. Thus, the logical policy conclusion has centred on highlighting the vital social role played by PESS through a process which links PESS practices with the functions and processes of wider society (Bailey & Kirk, 2009).
In terms of prescriptive policy, initial government attempts aimed to forge a link between the functions of schools sport, inter-school collaboration and increased links with general society. This policy agenda centred on the Physical Education, School Sports and Club Links Strategy (PESSCLS), however, more recently the government altered this policy to that of the Physical Education and Sport Strategy for Young People (PESSPY). PESSPY contains a variety of different processes aimed at increasing participation and collaboration in school sport. This includes School Sports Partnership Programme (SSPP) which constitutes central practical tenet of the overall PESSPY policy programme. At a basic level, the purpose of SSPP is to enhance and propel participation in school sports through a variety of different techniques (Wright & McDonald, 2010). In personifying the diversity which exists in modern school sport programmes, SSPP utilises both traditional methods like the National Curriculum for Physical Education (NCPE) in addition to other more modern concepts such as out of hours learning, informal physical activity and increased competition both within, and between schools. As such, at the outset it is certainly credible to argue that the PESS programme represents a new and innovative way of conceptualising school sports and the wider connotations sport has individual development and wider society.
Given the above, the purpose of this work is to assess and examine the degree to which SSPP have played a positive role in terms of enhancing high quality PESS for all young people. This assessment will assume a fairly broad basis. However, in addition to the broad examination which follows below, this work will also provide a strong measure of focus to specific features of SSPP and the impact they have had on producing higher levels of quality within PESS in general. As suggested above, the SSPP programme has four central tenets; NCPE, out of hours learning, informal physical activity and increased competition (Kirk et al, 2006). As such, the assessment which follows seeks to examine the impact of SSPP on the basis of these four criteria. It will be shown that SSPP constitutes a unique way of addressing the prevailing issues in school sports. Moreover, through reference to the four criteria, a clear link will also be forged between the SSPP programme and the general themes which have dominated government sport and social policy since the latter 1990s. Ultimately, the SSPP programme has shown the extent to which increased competition and multi-agency collaboration can broaden the foundations of school sports and thus enhance the positive outcomes. Naturally, significant challenges remain in terms of widening this positive impact and ensuring equity in terms of effective implementation across the country. Nonetheless, although problems do indeed persist, the overall conclusion of this work is that SSPP represents a positive development in terms of school sports policy and the wider impact such policies have on general society.
As suggested above, SSPP engenders a strong element of diversity in its approach to school sport and physical education. This diversity represents a wish to unify traditional methods of teaching PESS in conjunction with developing new forms of teaching methods which centre on inter-school collaboration and multi-agency partnerships (Kirk et al, 2006). In relation to the traditional approach, the central tenet of PESS has centred on the use of the traditional curriculum. As such, the NCPE has been developed in a way which meets the requirements of SSPP (OFSTED, 2004).
The primary method adopted to enhance the ability of the NCPE in propelling the effectiveness of PESS in general has been to alter the theoretical and practical assumptions by which teachers approach their subject matter (Kirk et al, 2006). In many respects, the NCPE continues to be based on the same processes that existed before the establishment of SSPP and PESSPY (Bailey & Kirk, 2010). As such, the focus on increasing interest and participation in physical and sporting activities has remained a central pivot of the NCPE. However, at a more subliminal level, teachers have been encouraged to diversify their approaches to teaching through the use of more effective pedagogy (Capel, 2005). As such, in light of the requirements of the SSPP, increasing focus within the NCPE has been placed on the theoretical assumptions utilised by teachers in their teaching practices. In the most part, theoretical changes in the NCPE have attempted to increase the levels of sporting participation among young people. In itself this development is far from being unique; however, the processes adopted to meet this aim do constitute a fairly new approach to the teaching of PESS. In particular, the NCPE now requires that PESS teachers conceptualise their teaching practices through the use of new terms of processes. For example, the NCPE approach highlights the importance of language, both verbal and non-verbal, on the performance and participation levels of young people (Capel, 2005). Much academic attention has been paid to this area of PESS pedagogy. In particular, Capel (2005) suggests that non-verbal assurances from a teacher can play as significant a role as that of verbal support. Therefore, changes in the NCPE which centre on a changing understanding of how teachers approach the practical processes of increasing interest and participation among young people are clearly positive. Naturally, there is the traditional difficulty of ensuring uniformity in terms of policy implementation, along with effectively accounting for the impact of these new approaches. Nonetheless, Capel (2005) suggests that PESS practices in general are enhanced as a result of increasing the awareness of teachers on how to impose subliminal messages which develop confidence and consequently, higher levels of participation. Thus, although ensuring uniformity it clearly a problem, it remains possible to see the degree to which PESS practices can be enhanced as a result of a better understanding of pedagogy and how its effective use can be applied in relation to SSPP and PESS.
Remaining with the interaction between SSPP, PESS and pedagogy, it is worth noting that the increased focus within the NCPE on pedagogical practices have also highlighted the degree to which the aims of SPP can be attained through a fuller understanding the ‘pedagogical encounter’. This encounter occurs as a result of an interaction between the NCPE, pupil and teacher (Capel, 2005). Therefore, it is once again possible to see the degree to which the use of traditional methods such as the NCPE can propel the aims and objectives of SSPP in general and enhance the benefits for PESS overall.
Moving on from the NCPE, SSPP represents an innovative approach to PESS. Above all, this innovation is personified by the idea of competition, both within and between schools. The concept of competition is central to the general idea of sport itself, therefore the utilisation of competition as a means of enhancing PESS practices can certainly be considered credible. On a practical level, SSPP processes have put in place competition managers in order to increase the levels of inter-school collaboration in competitive sports (Kirk et al, 2006). As such, SSPP have directly led to increased competitive events between local schools. Moreover, similar events at the regional level have also served to increase interest in sport and physical activity. Therefore, on a number of levels, the use of competition has increased levels of participation. In particular, Bailey & Kirk (2009) point out that competitive tendency between schools and localities leads pupils to engender greater pride in their particular school against that of others. Furthermore, on a purely practical level, the advent of more sporting events at the local and regional levels creates greater opportunities for pupils to engage in competitive sport. Thus, on both a theoretical and a practical level, the use of competition in SSPP has certainly enhanced the potential for establishing more effective processes in PESS.
Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the use of competition as a means of enhancing PESS processes is sometimes troublesome. For example, Davis (2004) suggests that competitive processes invariably engender a sense of success and loss. Therefore, although the benefits for the victors can be numerous, the losers may not necessarily feel the same benefits, and certainly not to the same degree. In addition, it is essential to point out that the competitive practices often result in a strong development of elitist mentality. The will to win, both within individual pupils and their schools does inevitably mean that the best and most able pupils will figure more prominently in the competitive processes created through the SSPP. Davis (2004) points out that SSPP practices do aim to be inclusive of all abilities and levels of performance, however, the inevitably tendency towards elitism in sport does remain when competitive methods are adopted. Naturally, whether this tendency is wholly negative is ultimately a matter of conjecture, however, this does nothing to detract from the fact that the tendency itself does indeed exist.
In addition to competition, the use of extracurricular learning and out of school hours is central to the processes and functions of SSPP. In furthering the wish to increase participation and physical activity among young people outside of school time, SSPP programmes have sought to forge links with clubs and societies in the wider local community. As such, Wright & McDonald (2010) suggest that SSPP directly serves to form an effective interaction between pupils and wider society in a way which utilises the benefits sporting clubs can have in terms of access to better resources and equipment. Therefore, one key method by which SSPP increases the potential for effective PESS is that they allow pupils greater access to specialist equipment which would not otherwise be available.
Furthermore, in the hope of increasing levels of participation in later sporting life, forging a link between schools and sporting elements in wider society has obvious in terms of developing the potential for pupils to continue engaging in sporting activities after they left secondary education. This benefit of SSPP has direct connotations with the academic investigations which have taken place in relation to the societal role played by sport. In particular, studies carried out by thinkers such as Hayes & Stidder (2003) and Collins & Kay (2003) have highlighted the degree to which increased participation in sport can have a positive impact on wider social processes. Social exclusion is viewed as being one central issue of concern is this regard and is dealt with in greater detail below. However, at this point it is important to emphasise the extent to which increased sporting participation can have a positive effect on reducing the tendency towards anti-social behaviour among young people (Hayes & Stidder, 2003). Thus, it is certainly credible to argue that SSPP have a direct impact on the propagation of effective PESS processes, in addition to a similarly positive effect on the functions of, and genuine problems in wider society.
The focus placed on out of hours of learning by SSPP is thus heavily centred on the use of facilities and clubs in the wider community. However, in addition to this, Kirk et al (2006) also suggest that out of hours learning equally includes willingness to volunteering in the wider community, along with enhancing potential leadership skills. The use of such methods, in addition to those outlined above in relation to sporting clubs outside of school have been shown to have a positive impact on PESS processes in terms of increasing inclusion (O’Sullivan & MacPhail, 2010). As suggested above, the understanding of how sport can act as a means of combating social exclusion has long been a subject of concern for academics and policy makers alike. Collins & Kay (2003) suggest that social exclusion occurs when societal processes inhibit the ability of certain groups to advance their own socio-economic positions. In addition, Collins & Kay (2003) dedicate significant attention to assessing the extent to which sport can have a direct positive impact upon the ability of socially excluded groups to combat societal tendencies towards exclusion. As such, the willingness of SSPP to directly forge a link between school-based sporting activities and wider society is clearly a positive development in terms of combating social exclusion through the establishment of effective PESS. It has been suggested that numerous groups have benefited from this process. However, Flintoff (2008) has examined the role played by SSPP in relation to combating social exclusion on the basis of gender. In doing so, Flintoff (2008) suggests that the overall SSPP has led to numerous benefits in terms of increasing gender equity. Therefore, given that a key central aim of SSPP in general is to increase interest and participation in sport across social and biological divides, it is certainly possible to argue that Flintoff’s assessment gives credence to the suggestion that effective PESS practices have occurred as a consequence of SSPP.
As suggested above, the idea of using volunteering as an intrinsic process of PESS has been propelled by the advent of SSPP. As such, it is possible to see how volunteering can be utilised as a means of developing non-traditional forms of physical activity. The use of informal physical activity is a central pivot in the practical approach adopted by SSPP. Moreover, the use of such methods has numerous benefits. As suggested above, the development of volunteering and leadership skills has a plethora of potential benefits in terms of enhancing young people’s abilities and performance in PESS. In addition, such processes have obvious societal benefits like those examined in relation to social exclusion and anti social behaviour. However, it is also important to account for the positive outcomes which can result from the use of such methods in terms of widening the participation base of sporting activities in schools. The above discussion undertaken in relation to competition highlighted the potential problems which can emerge in relation to elitism within the structure of SSPP processes. However, in the case of informal physical activity such as volunteering, it is possible to see how greater inclusion could be achieved which accounts directly for large variations in ability (Kirk et al, 2006). Thus, it is certainly possible to argue that the SSPP initiative has directly led to increased participation across ability ranges within PESS in general.
It is also important to note that the SSPP initiative has taken place on the basis of a general social policy programme. Above all, since 1997, increasing political focus has been placed on engendering greater levels of cooperation between stakeholders responsible for certain areas of policy implementation (Bailey & Kirk, 2010). Thus, in social services, education, health and employment, inter-agency collaboration has been the hallmark of the general social policy agenda for well over a decade. As such, the SSPP initiative, with its focus on partnership between schools and other actors in wider society has taken place firmly within the contours of general social policy. In many respects, it is certainly possible to argue that this focus on partnership between relevant stakeholder actors has had a positive effective on PESS processes in general. Above all, the willingness to engage in collaboration creates a sustained link between physical activity at the school level and the wider processes of society. Thus, collaboration and partnership itself serves to enhance the potential for effective PESS for all school children, in addition to directly meeting the societal needs and requirements specified above with regards social exclusion and anti social behaviour.
Above all, this work has aimed to examine and assess the degree to which SSPP have served to increase the possibilities of effective and beneficial processes in PESS. What is clear is that on a general level, the benefits of SSPP are considerable. Given that the central aim of SSPP is to increase participation in PESS, it is credible to argue that this aim is certainly enhanced by the practical processes involved in SSPP. Thus, practical features such as increased competition between schools have clearly increased the participation base of many young people. Thus, at a general level, one must conclude that the aims and objectives of SSPP have been met to some degree.
However, it remains essential to remember that the SSPP initiative does have limitations. As with all areas of educational policy, ensuring uniformity across the country is clearly a matter of concern. Moreover, as suggested above, SSPP methods do have a tendency to create a measure of elitism within sporting activity. Of course, this elitism is offset to some extent by other processes; however, it evidently remains an issue of concern.
Nonetheless, one feels it is necessary to extol the virtues and benefits of SSPP. Above all, it has long been accepted that participation in sport has a direct positive impact upon wider societal processes. Therefore, in terms of developing the benefits of sport for all young people, the link forged by SSPP between school-based sports and wider societal processes is undoubtedly a distinct benefit. Given this, it is the conclusion of this work that the SSPP initiative should be developed and enhanced from its present base. Numerous methods could be used to carry this out. However, given the obvious wider societal benefits can be derived from participation in sport, one feels it would be prudent to increase the focus on partnership and collaboration in a way which propels the positive developments already witnessed.
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