A life in the week of Sarah Knightbridge, director of girls’ sport at New Hall School in Essex
I am woken at 6.15am by the ridiculously loud alarm on my phone (I have not yet worked out how to control the volume on it). I drag my two boys out of bed and, once dressed and good to go, we jump in the car and head to school. We arrive just before 7.30am to a light dusting of snow which makes the mile drive up to the school even more beautiful than it usually looks. My boys run off to breakfast club as a film crew from Australia arrive to film their equivalent of Panorama, focusing on ‘diamond model’ schools. I have breakfast at my desk before attending the girls’ divisional assembly prior to teaching psychology first thing. Immediately following this lesson is staff briefing, so it’s a quick dash to the common room for coffee and biscuits. However, I sit next to Michelle Drayne (head of Netball, Mavericks and Northern Ireland) who makes me feel incredibly guilty with her healthy alternatives. Following this, I have an hour to prepare and plan for the week ahead and make sure everything is organised. Prior to lunch I have a biomechanics lesson with my A level physiology class in an attempt to make linear motion as interesting as possible. After some food, it’s straight out to help the head of hockey with the performance academy before squeezing in a little more admin. The last lesson of the day is year 9 games where I work with the non-team netballers. As director of girls’ sport, I believe that it is just as important to work with and encourage those girls that are not into competitive team sports and help them develop a lifelong love of physical activity. You definitely have to take a different approach. However, seeing their progression and enjoyment during the session makes it all worthwhile. After school, I help to coach the U12 and U13 netballers alongside other staff with the session finishing just before 6pm before heading home.
The lure of bacon and hash browns at breakfast club is far too good for me to resist and I decide to join my boys and other boarding staff on this occasion. Tuesday is definitely what I would call my catch-up day as I have quite a bit of free time for meetings and admin. The first meeting is with the director of boys’ sport and the registrar, with the focus on finalising potential sports scholars for September. Meetings with the head of hockey and head of cricket follow, with discussions revolving around future touring opportunities and the development of girls’ cricket. The school are interviewing for the head of psychology position today too so at lunch-time I sit and chat with the candidates. After lunch, all our senior netball teams are in action at home and I umpire the 3rd VII game before coaching the U15 squads after school. Finally, I am not quite sure quite how I did it but, after putting the boys to bed, I manage to do some exercise myself and complete one of my many Insanity DVDs in the front room.
Wednesday begins with a discussion about managing senior games with the director of boys’ sport. Furthermore, we are holding the Essex round of the Lady Taverners’ U13 girls’ cricket competition today alongside a preparatory swimming gala and I am well aware that at some point in the day I need to be in three places at once within my ten-period day. My first lesson is GCSE practical and the girls have their table tennis assessment today. Following this, I teach a fourth year core PE class and the girls have been focusing on badminton and basketball this half-term. My last lesson before lunch is year 11 girls swimming and I am incredibly lucky as this lesson is taught by one of our amazing swim teachers so I get to help out in more of a supporting role. At lunch-time I head out to the 3G with the head of rugby to register the U15 girls for their rugby 7s session and oversee how they are getting on. This is a sport that we have introduced since Christmas and the girls are working hard in preparation for a tournament which takes place at the end of March. Towards the end of lunch, I manage to pop into the sports hall to see the final of the girls’ cricket tournament. It’s nailbiting stuff but the girls pull through to win much to the delight of Nasser Hussain (cricket professional) who has coached the girls since they were at the prep school. To finish off an incredibly busy day, the afternoon is spent at an away match with my U12A netball team.
My day begins with a challenge and a tough topic to teach to my year 10 GCSE class - planes and axes. I have found over the years that using jelly babies, cocktail sticks and Play-Doh is the way to go with this one and the girls seems to really grasp the theory using this kinesthetic learning style. The fact that they get to eat the jelly babies afterwards always helps too. After the fun and sugar involved in this lesson I have some free time to gather my thoughts and attempt to get some marking done. My year 13 physiology class are up next and I attempt to enthuse them with more biomechanics, graphs, calculations and things that they probably never expected to be doing in a PE lesson. At lunch-time it’s time to head out to help with the hockey development academy. After lunch, it,s year 10 games and once again I focus on working with those girls who choose not to play competitive team games. I take the girls into the fitness suite and lead a session based around cardio-vascular fitness and strength and conditioning with the aim of getting them to take ownership of their own training and fitness goals. Year 7 parents evening immediately follows games but, when I get home and my boys are in bed, I find the energy from somewhere to get out for a run.
As its coming to the end of the working week once more, I decide to celebrate by joining the boys for breakfast club once more. My will power at the end of the week is non-existent. After all it’s croissant day and really it would be rude not to. It is ideal preparation for my psychology lesson to follow. The lesson focus is Freud which I love to teach as the theories that Freud developed always engage the students and promote much questioning and discussion. Staff briefing follows with a little more free time for lesson planning, marking and general admin. My last lesson before lunch is with my year 11 GCSE theory class and we spend some time going through a test and completing their PEP coursework. I manage to squeeze in a quick packed lunch before heading out to year 8 netball club. Immediately following this, the entire department heads over to the prep school to undertake sessions with the year 3 and 4s, followed by the year 5 and 6s. The link between the schools is fantastic and is great to be able to be so involved with the pupils from such a young age. Following this, I manage to grab a quick hot chocolate before running out to the astro to help with the elite section of the hockey academy before collecting my boys and returning home.
I drop my eldest at school at 9am and watch him jump on a coach to play in his hockey fixture. This leaves me with a few hours to myself at my desk to catch up and start to look at the week ahead. I have lunch at my desk before grabbing the kit bags and heading off on another coach to a netball fixture in Hertfordshire. It’s always good to have a successful Saturday and in this case all three U14 girls’ teams are successful which leads to much singing on the way home.
The sport never ends in my household and it’s not long before we are all up and out again. My two boys train with their hockey club every Sunday and once again I try to seize the opportunity whilst I can and go for a long run. My hockey-playing days are long gone but it’s great to see my boys developing and enjoying the game so much. What’s more is that it doesn’t end there. My eldest ends his day by playing two indoor cricket matches whilst I do something I rarely get time to do in the week - cooking a roast dinner, ready to fuel us all up before it all begins again.
A LIFE IN THE WEEK OF