A life in the week of Stewart Orton, head of PE at Blessed George Napier School in Oxfordshire
It’s 6am and my wife shouting up to my three teenage sons reminds me that the half-term break is over and it’s back to an action-packed last half of the summer term at school. One of the (many) advantages of absolutely loving your job is that there are never any Monday morning blues and, although its great being on holiday of course, going to work as a PE teacher is (almost) just as good. I ignore the looks from my better half as she organises the three boys’ school bags, kit bags, snacks etc and nip out for a quick 30 minute run (ok slow jog) around the amazing area where we live. Once back, showered and changed I make the long 20 second stroll to the town square to meet my PE colleague Will, as it’s his turn to drive this week, and we make the 30 mile drive to school. Having Will live near me is not only handy for lift sharing but the 45 minute drive is great for discussing the day ahead, upcoming fixtures, teams, etc. and the journey flashes by. Once at school I am greeted by a very smart young man and I am instantly reminded of my promise to take a year 10 student, from a neighbouring school, on work experience. I show him into my office and then dash off to whole school briefing, which we have four days a week at BGN. I hosted the Oxfordshire (first) round of the ESAA Track & Field Cup, in which our teams competed, so I use my slot in briefing to inform the rest of the school staff of how we got on. I am so lucky that the BGN staff takes an absolute pride in our sporting success and are so supportive of the department. So they are genuinely delighted when I announce that our inter boys team won their event with a school record (434points) and qualify for the Midlands regional final. There is also no glaring or shaking of heads when I also announce that the final is this coming Friday and once again the boys will be missing from their lessons. Colleagues in other schools tell me of the difficulties they have getting teams out of school during the day and I always remind myself, and my department, of how lucky we are that the staff at BGN, and the senior team, realise the value and many benefits of physical activity and sport. I have a quick chat with our work experience pupil and then the rest of the day races past in a flurry of tennis lessons and athletics practices. My day ends with an evening ‘one bounce’ and ‘chip in the goal without bouncing’ session in our local park (about a 45 second walk from our house), with my three sons. Of course with three sporty boys the games don’t pass by without the usual competitive discussions!
Another early morning plod around the amazing Cotswold countryside starts the day and is something I never take for granted. I was born and bred on a north London council estate and love London dearly but, having moved to the Cotswolds a few years ago, the quietness (except for a few sheep and cows) on my morning jogs is something I have learnt to love. School starts with a ‘gained time’ (year 11 in exams) free period so I use it to catch up on my emails. Amongst the many in my inbox is a request from the ESAA to organise Friday’s Track & Field Cup regional final. Having organised the first round I thought I may have escaped but nobody has come forward so I am happy to offer my services. It doesn’t give me much time to arrange officials, contact competing schools etc. but I’m sure all will be OK. Next I have a lower set year 9 group. At the start of the summer term I was very concerned about the lack of physical fitness of this group and felt it was having a severe detrimental effect on their PE progress. I took them off the curriculum and put them on our own school ‘0 to 20 in 10’. This is a progressive running programme that ensures every child in our school can run for at least 20 minutes non-stop. Any student who we are concerned about (fitness wise) is put onto the programme and is mentored by a member of the PE department. We find that the pupils are not keen at first but as the weeks go by, and their fitness improves, they really start to get into it and are proud to complete each session. This week my year 9 group are doing a six minute run with 90 seconds walk three times. It goes well and it is obvious that the pupils completed the sessions I set for them over the half-term. Lunch time is spent relay practising with the year 10s who, as well as having their ESAA regional final on Friday, have their own district championship on Thursday evening. The year 10s, of course, are experienced runners and check marks and acceleration zones are well rehearsed and the session goes well. Will works with some of the throwers on the opposite side of the field. Athletics is our main summer sport and both the PE teachers and the pupils put a lot of time into the training of all the various events. Tennis with year 8 boys in period five and then it’s back out, after school, to the athletics field. I work with our hurdlers first while Will takes the jump eventers and then finish the school day with our hammer throwers in a far flung corner of our school fields. All the meanwhile Laura and Kate (our wonderful girls PE teachers) take a rounders practice. A quick dash home and then my eldest son and I head to the tennis club just one minute walk away for the weekly team’s practice night.
A nice start to the day as I am scheduled for year 11 and year 13 lessons so a very welcome slot of gained time. I use it to organise the paperwork, results cards etc for Friday’s athletics final and email the competing schools to remind them to get their teams online before Thursday evening. As I also organise our district championships, I take the opportunity to get everything ready for Thursday evening also. Lesson 3 is my year 10 GCSE group and, although I know that we shouldn’t have favourites, possibly the nicest, group of students in one place I have ever taught. We go through what might be, or might not be, in their forthcoming mock and their attention to detail and passion for the subject shines through as always. It’s a jog down to our local tennis courts for year 7 next where we have an enjoyable session of cardio-tennis. I decided a couple of years ago that a 50 minute traditional tennis lesson, with a wide (up to 30 in the class) range of tennis abilities and experience, is almost a waste of time so put all the PE staff on a cardio tennis’ course and we deliver six sessions to each year group in KS3 every summer. It is great fun, achievable for all and a thoroughly good work out. We have a great link with the tennis club and send any interested pupils for more traditional tennis coaching on a Friday afternoon. Many go on to join the club. Fast walk back to school for a well-earned lunch for the students and a lunch-time relay practice for me with the year 10 teams. Period 5 is our year 12 afternoon – this is a compulsory session but our students opt for activities of their choice. This year I have managed to find out of capitation (don’t ask how) an amount to pay for up to 16 students to use the local gym and Kate scoots them down in the minibus while Laura and I organise the ones left at school. Once settled Laura, who is my second in department, and I sit down together to discuss any pressing issues and a general catch up. Laura is wonderful and I don’t know what I would do without her. Amongst her many duties, she runs the A level course and the Duke of Edinburgh scheme that now has students at all three levels. Wednesday afternoon is usually all years’ athletics practice but we use this one to focus on the teams for Thursday evening and Friday. I don’t enjoy focussing on just a few as all are welcome at our athletics club but decide that this week the ones with impending competitions need the support most. I then have to drive to pick up one of my sons who has a late return from a sports fixture before home for dinner and another hour or so in the park getting ripped apart by my boys on the football field.
An even earlier run this morning so that I can be in school to organise everything for a busy day ahead. Rory (our SSCO) has a primary quad kids athletics event on our school fields this morning ably assisted by our wonderful year 9 leaders. I said I would do the starting for him and spend an enjoyable couple of hours amongst the genuine passion and team spirit that primary teams seem to enjoy. Of course I don’t miss the opportunity for a bit of talent spotting. Final relay practices lunch-time and then up to the venue of the year 10/11 athletics championships. I take a couple of fantastic sixth formers up with me to help set up and the rest of the department arrive later with our teams. The weather is fabulous and the standard of athletics high as the two hour event runs seamlessly. After the relays (yes the practice paid off as both teams won comprehensively) I announce the results and complete the presentations – delighted to say that both our boys and girls teams were the winners – and then I make a fast dash off home to make my Gloucestershire summer tennis league fixture. I joined Northleach Tennis Club last summer and play with my son in the summer doubles tennis league. It is a joy to actually play competitive tennis with my eldest although we are far less tolerant of each other’s errors than we would be other partners. A comfortable win rounds up a busy, active but enjoyable day.
In early to meet my sixth form leaders and we head off in the minibus up to Solihull to set up the day’s big athletics event. I am experienced in running athletics meets but, what with the many different things to organise, there’s always that nagging doubt that I have forgotten something. Thankfully the day passes without a hitch and on time. Our inter boys repeat their 434 points score from the first round to finish third overall. They are a little disappointed, as some of them thought it may have been on to reach the national final this year but, when I explain that third highest scoring school out of six counties is not a bad achievement, they respond positively. A stop at Starbucks, as a treat to my sixth form helpers, on the return journey then I spend an hour at school carefully checking through the results before uploading them onto the ESAA website. Duties complete for another year. Friday evening includes more ‘one bounce’ in the park with my two youngest boys and then a glorious hour doing nothing but watching Sky Sports before bed. Heaven.
No lie ins in our household and it’s up with the lark to wake my youngest son who has a football tournament, the first of two that he has this weekend. I take him to the tournament and am able to stay and watch the first three games before I have to head off to Oxford to referee Oxford v Portsmouth West of England Open Age Rugby League. I got into rugby league years ago – watching Super League on a Friday night on Sky - and have been refereeing for around ten years. The standard of regional leagues has improved massively in that time and, as well as a much needed extra few quid, it’s a nice way to still be involved in sport on a Saturday afternoon.
An early start to get to school to pick up a minibus load of BGN athletes all competing at today’s Oxfordshire Schools Championships. At the track I assist our area organiser in issuing numbers, information times etc to our teams as well as trying to keep an eye on the action – especially my own school pupils. The first medal of the day – year 7 girls 100m – goes to our area and one of our students. Her parents are delighted and that amazing feeling of’ just maybe this wouldn’t have happened without my departments input buzzes through me. By the end of the day my own school athletes have picked up around 20 medals with a couple of performances probably warranting selection for the county team for the national championships. I drive the few remaining BGN athletes back to school before dashing over to my youngest son’s second football tournament. My wife has just texted me to say they have reached the final. I get there too late to see any action but am in time to see their presentation as winners. My son scored the only goal in the final as well. I drive home with my ‘buzzing’ son and he relishes telling me about every game and goal on the way to victory. Late evening I find a couple of hours to prepare for the following week, write up a report on the past week’s sporting news and email out all the results of the year10/11 district championships that I suddenly realise I hadn’t done. What a week – and tomorrow it begins all over again. Bring it on.
A LIFE IN THE WEEK OF