Westerton Primary Academy – Jez Whawell, PESSPA and Wellbeing Lead

Westerton Primary Academy – Jez Whawell, PESSPA and Wellbeing Lead

Westerton Primary Academy is a large three form entry school in the Morley area of Leeds, with classes from nursery to Year 6. We serve a community with a wide range of economic backgrounds, and are predominantly white British.

PE and Physical Activity (PA) has always held an important position in our school. All teaching staff deliver PE lessons, including swimming, and they feel their knowledge in the subject is strong (as shown in our yearly staff subject knowledge audit). This has been achieved through regular CPD for different areas of PE, using the sport premium funding, and as we plan as a year group team, experienced and confident staff are able to support their peers. Investing in our staff is an effective use of the funding as it allows us to have an impact on all pupils, which can be difficult in a school of our size. Funding was also allocated to developing a Play Leader scheme where our Year 5 and 6 pupils organised and led activities for pupils during playtimes. Participating in inter-school sport has always been a big part of Westerton too. We regularly compete in a range of competitions against other schools in Morley, as well as Leeds wide events. Although this has continued, it became increasingly apparent that only a fraction of our pupils were able to be included in these opportunities.

Two years ago, we decided to develop our PA offer at Westerton so that all pupils would be included, by increasing the levels of PA during non-PE curriculum time.  I was able to secure occasional staff meetings in order to introduce new elements to the curriculum, such as active breaks between lessons and resources to aid the planning of physically active elements in lessons. Both were well received, but did not become established. In order for it to become so, it needed to be part of the School Development Plan (SDP).

In May 2021 we were selected by the Yorkshire Sport Foundation for our Year 2, Year 4 and Year 6 pupils to participate in the national Active Lives survey. Although we have always valued published data regarding levels of physical activity and health, gaining data specific to pupils at our school was extremely powerful. It highlighted the urgent need for increased levels of PA, and for it to become a part of our every day curriculum, not just competitions, clubs and playtimes. It also showed that our pupils felt that they had low resilience and competency levels. As such, it became part of the SDP for the 2021-2022 academic year. It also began the introduction of Move&Learn at Westerton.

Making such a big change at a large school, I knew that I could not lead the changes by myself in school. I needed colleagues who would be influencers as well as guidance from an outside organisation of how to develop physically active learning. Ian and Bryn from Move&Learn were able to offer support for both. During the 2020-2021 summer term, in preparation for the next academic year, Move&Learn worked with a member of staff from each phase in school, who would then be the ‘Champion’ to share good practice and support colleagues in their phase. We have worked hard to develop the Westeton curriculum over the past few years, so that it is knowledge driven. We want staff to become confident in including physically active elements to their lessons to complement the subject knowledge rather than including something just because it was physically active. This will take time. The ‘Champions’ were guided through the direct and indirect Move & Learn approaches and explored how these could be included into a variety of lessons. As a group we then agreed that the “retrieval” and “collection” approaches would be the best strategies to promote with our staff first as we felt they would be more receptive to these strategies and be able to incorporate them across the whole curriculum.

At the first staff meeting of the 2021-2022 year I was able to share the key messages from the Active Lives Survey and outline the expectations of how many physically active elements staff should be including within their timetable each week. This allowed buy-in from staff as to why we were making changes, as well as consistency through the school. The second staff meeting gave time for staff to review the strategies they have used and share good practice. They also were given time to share barriers they were experiencing and resource needs. 

In sharing good practice with each other, the staff were able to gain affirmation for the strategies they had tried or created as well as increasing their own catalogue, especially with activities they could easily employ across different year groups, such as a Retrieval activity shared by Year 4 for practising spellings with an active movement for vowels and another for consonants. Equally many activities shared by staff were longer activities. One that was well received was a Collection activity from a Year 6 class preparing pupils for writing their spy thrillers in the coming lessons. Six hoops were placed at one end of the playground, each with a basic piece of vocabulary inside. Teams of 5 then took turns to gather a word from the pile of synonyms in the middle of the playground and returned to their team. They then discussed the meaning, as many of the words were new or unfamiliar to them, and decided which basic word to match it with and place it inside the hoop. The aim was for the whole class to sort the vocabulary accurately rather than having a winning team.

The two main barriers the staff expressed were the timetable expectations and confidence in creating and delivering the activities. We have made good progress in overcoming these two barriers. Initially the staff were concerned that physically active learning would add more to an already ambitious and full timetable. As with making any curriculum change in a school, there will also be concern from some staff as they are keen to incorporate the changes effectively but fear that it may initially go wrong. For both barriers, once they’d had a chance to plan in their teams and try out a few activities, as well as seeking support from the ‘Champions’, they could see that it would be woven into their existing lessons without much more stress on time, and that beginning with activities that could be used in a variety of subjects allowed for repetition and becoming more comfortable with delivery.

Collecting staff views for both of these were valuable to then discuss with Move&Learn during their next visit and gain possible solutions and guidance. During the same visit staff were given the chance to discuss their views around physically active learning and how they were adapting to the changes made. This was beneficial as staff gained reassurance and I was able to ascertain if, as a staff, we shared the same end goal. Ian attended our third staff meeting and led a session with our staff to review the strategies they have been using, and align them with other elements of CPD they have received over the past year. This was to show staff that physically active learning is not a separate element of their practice but can be woven into and complement their existing practice, without adding to their workload.

It has been well received as a staff. This has been clear from the discussions during staff meetings when staff have been able share good practise and then suggest how these may work in other parts of the curriculum. Some staff have chosen it as an area to focus on for their Professional Growth for the current academic year. Also, from discussions with the ‘Champions’, the staff in their phases have experimented with and developed the shared strategies from other staff and are relying less on their support.

Once physically active learning has become more established, we will need to explore the impact this has had on pupils’ resilience and competency levels, as highlighted in the survey, and how to develop these aspects further through our active curriculum.

We have found working with Move&Learn extremely valuable and enjoyable. Although our journey is nowhere near the end, I feel we have made huge strides in developing our physically active curriculum offer already, which would not have been as successful without the help and support we have received. We are excited to see what the future holds.