A life in the week of Victoria Clemens, director of PE at Bromley High School in Kent.
I start each Monday morning with a swim so I’m in the pool by 6am and at my desk at 7.30am. Janet, our morning netball coach, is back in for the first time today. She has U12 and U13 A teams for training this morning and we quickly make a plan for what she is going to cover in these first few weeks. After whole school assembly, I have double year 9 in periods 1 and 2. It is their first lesson of the year so we spend 30 minutes getting sorted. We have a pupil questionnaire for them all to do. We are tracking their activity levels, primarily looking for any girls not taking part in any co-curricular sport outside of their PE lessons, and also tracking the activity of those girls doing a high level of sport outside of school. One sixth of the girls in year 9 are not taking part in any recreational sport. I will be writing to the parents of these girls to send them a copy of our clubs and activities list, in the hope that we might find something to suit them. Eight girls are taking part in sport at county level or above, four have national representation experience. I am the sports mentor for year 9, so I will be meeting with each of these girls this week to give them an exercise grid to complete. Here I will monitor how much training they are doing both in and out of school with their sports, plus checking that they have a rest day and time to complete their school work. After this initial admin, I have the year 9 A and B squad netballers for a session on the courts. Two groups are completing netball and fitness units, with the other two working on hockey and volleyball. They will switch at half-term so that all year 9s have covered these four sports by Christmas. After this lesson, I’m into my emails and at noon have a meeting with the head to discuss the balance of time in facilities between the junior and senior school. In the afternoon, I attend the head of departments meeting to discuss the ‘Learning Pit’ and ‘Growth Mindset’- initiatives that departments are following as well as discussing the summer’s GCSE and A-Level results and setting targets for the coming year.
I squeeze a 7k run in before I’m at my desk at 7.45am. I teach year 7 first thing, who are supposed to be in the swimming pool, but the refurbishment work isn’t finished yet, so we have an invasion game decision making lesson instead. Each year I forget how slow year 7 are to change and quite how many questions I’ll get asked about the game. But they are a nice group and I’m sure they’ll grow into their oversized kit. After break, I have my year 13 A-level group. This is a lesson I always look forward to as they are engaged, interested, chatty and enjoyable to take. We’re covering psychology at the moment and you can see the look of understanding crossing their faces as they think about their own performances. I spent weeks planning these lessons over the summer so every Powerpoint and task for them has been fully planned and is ready to go. During lunch, I would usually have my year 9 D & E teams, but I have their second trials session after school, so they won’t start until their teams are selected. Instead I use lunch to catch-up on my never-ending email trail. In the afternoon, I have double year 10 PE. I am working with the girls in the fitness suite today. After a poll with the girls, around half of them are using gym memberships. I go to a gym local to school but in term time I go at the crack of dawn, so never bump into any of our pupils. During the summer, while on the treadmill, a group of girls caught my eye. They were bouncing up and down on exercise balls and had no clue how to use any of the equipment. The thought that crossed my mind was ‘I wonder what school they go to and who their PE teacher is, then felt total shame as they walked behind me and said ‘Hello Mrs Clemens’ realising they’re mine. This is what has sparked this unit of work. We are very fortunate to have had a new fitness suite built in the school last year, meaning we have the opportunity to teach our girls how to use the equipment properly. I induct two groups of year 10 girls on how to use our CV machines, working either aerobically or in anaerobic intervals. Then in pairs we make them a six-week strength and conditioning programme using body weight and light free-weight exercises. At least we’re equipping them with the knowledge to use a gym safely. After school, I have the second week of my year 9 netball trials. We keep teams for two years so this will be my last year with them until they come back to me in the senior sides. They have all grown at least half a foot over the summer and I now have to look up to speak to most of them. I have seven teams up on the courts, which I am delighted by, and will sort them into five squads overall. We have fixtures for girls in all teams A-E every other week, so we barely fit onto the coach with the amount of players I have. It takes me an hour and a half, but I finally have them sorted and congratulate each squad and name their captain. I am really looking forward to their fixtures starting next week. I love taking the girls to fixtures. It’s chaotic, but I think it does so much for their confidence and this is the reason I became a PE teacher. I’m proud of any girl that puts on the Bromley kit to represent our school. It doesn’t matter which team they are A-E or the end result. They are committed and give their matches everything. We have a sports tour rep coming in this evening to pitch our proposed netball and hockey senior sports tour to Barbados to parents of 38 girls. The hall is booked and after the rep has finished the pitch I get to close the evening with insurance details and the price. The school has never run a long-haul overseas tour and I’m really excited to be able to offer our girls the opportunity. Barbados is an excellent tour and I know they’ll get so much out of it. I leave school at 7pm after a busy day.
A gym rest day so it’s straight into work and on with the emails this morning. We have staff briefing at 8am, so I’m trying to eat my cereal quietly as the Head goes through our notices. My first lesson is sixth form PE and I’m out on the netball court with my senior girls. We’re working on closing down the space and intercepting and have a match tonight, but the girls are looking fit and ready. After the sixth form, it’s year 10 GCSE practical lesson. I team teach this with another member of the department so that all sessions are filmed to provide the skills evidence for our moderations. The girls are doing hockey so while David leads the session I am camerawoman. During lunch, I have my U14A netball team in training with the U15As. Our Kent tournament is only five weeks away so we’re straight down to work. This week we’re focusing on centre pass set-plays. We have sven with coded names which get called by the centre and then initiate a pattern of set runs and a set pathway for the ball. With the Kent tournament games so short (seven minutes each way), it’s vital we’re organised and efficient with our centre passes. I have year 11 double netball in the afternoons and this week we have a fixture starting at 3pm. I take the girls through the same practice I did with the sixth form. I am really lucky that three out of the five sixth-formers I have in my senior first team have a free period this afternoon and come and join the year 11s for the fixture. We’re playing Glyn School who have travelled over from Epsom. The fixture is scheduled for two teams, but they only bring one along, so I ask whether their first team will play both my first and second teams, which they agree to. Glyn are a little too strong for my second team who are beaten 13-1, but the firsts manage to defeat them 12-4, despite a downpour half-way through the match. I’m happy to start the season with a win, but also very happy to be back into fixtures.
It’s circuits day at the gym and I put myself through a HIIT session before getting to my desk at 7.45am. I have a light timetable today and the plan is for me to go out on some outreach with local primary schools in the area. The idea will be to offer support to the schools without a PE specialist, of which there are quite a number. Until the details are ironed out, I am in school trying to plough through as much paperwork and as many emails as I can. I actually manage to get quite a lot ticked off of my to-do list, which is great. At lunch, I have my U14B and C team netballers and we are also working on centre pass set plays. They remember four from last year, so we tidy them up and make sure everyone knows what they are doing in their new squads. There are only marginal differences between a lot of these girls in their play, so it’s nice to have them all training together. I feel the squads may be quite fluid for them at this point. Although I have three U14 lunchtime netball practices in a week, I like seeing them in small groups so that they get a lot of my attention. In the past, I have tried to train five teams at once and it doesn’t work for either the girls or me as I only get to spend a couple of minutes with each one. My afternoon lesson is year 8 dance. I like teaching netball but I absolutely love teaching dance. I have finally managed to get a projector and screen set-up in the gym, meaning we can do more filming and analysis work this year. It also means I can show the girls clips from professional works. We start the lesson by learning a set sequence as a class. The sequence is quite uniform with only limited levels and direction changes. The girls will then develop these movements to make them original to their small groups and add in the dynamic elements. I don’t have a fixture after school, so I start with my A-Level marking and make sure my lessons are all set for tomorrow.
Finally it’s Friday. It’s tough when you first come back to school and hit the ground running. It’s such a shock to the system and I am really tired. The day starts with double theory, first A-level, followed by year 11 GCSE. The A-level group have a lesson on sports confidence and the GCSE girls have a lesson on skills classification. The new spec means there is lots of cross-over and similarities between the two courses. It is pouring outside so I’m quite happy to be in the classroom. At break we have our new team captains’ meeting. We do this at the start of each year once squads have been selected. We are trying to develop the leadership potential of our pupils, so different girls are selected as captains each year. They come and meet with the PE department and are given a job description. This is a two-page document listing the qualities that make a good captain and what the job role entails. This includes setting the standard and being the first to arrive at training, as well as such things as leading team warm-ups at fixtures and thanking opposition umpires. The girls also meet our sixth form senior captains, who they can go to for any help and guidance and hear that they are now part of the Captain’s Council, which meets once a term and is run by the sixth form captains. No staff members attend. Here the pupils represent the views of their teams and we get honest feedback about what they are enjoying or not enjoying about the PE programme. This has helped us to make changes to our training and matches for the girls. At lunch I have senior netball training which is mostly match-play based at the moment. Our Kent tournament is only two weeks away and our new squad have not spent much time on court together. We are still making runs into the same space and going for the same interceptions on court. We need time to learn how each other play and the more time spent together on court, the better at this point. I reassure myself with the fact that all of the other teams will be in a similar position to us with a tournament this early. In the afternoon, we have the year 7 girls for a double. We are a member of staff short so, instead of teaching gymnastics, I switch to netball and double-up the groups. I have the girls who have less experience of netball, not all of them having played at their primary schools. I actually quite like it when they come into the school as a blank slate. We don’t have to correct bad habits. We work on passing and footwork and get them to land two-footed at Bromley rather than the traditional ‘hopping 1-2’. We then play five-a-side games where the GS and GK are allowed in the same areas of the court as the GA and GD. It means that all girls get far more touches of the ball and nobody is stuck isolated at one end. Despite the year 7s being quite hard work, they are really engaged in the lesson and I actually have a lot of fun teaching them. As the final bell goes and the girls have managed to get both shoes back on and all of the items of kit back into their bag it is a relief to have made it to the end of the week. I make sure I have everything ready for my fixtures and my lesson first thing Monday morning, then the computer is powered down. Overall I really like this time of year. It is frenzied as the girls return to school, but I like getting new squads sorted and knowing we’re building towards tournaments this term. It is busy and hectic and we have more teams than staff, but this is what life looks like as a PE teacher and it is the type of chaotic, which if we are doing our jobs right, put smiles on red faces of lots of girls taking part and enjoying their sport. That is worth every bit of energy and every hour out on the courts and pitches.
It’s a slightly later rise for me but I am still up at 8am as I have dance classes to teach. I started teaching ballet, tap and street dance classes when I was 15, and after a break from it when I started my first teaching job, I went back to it five years ago. I have no desire to be a junior school teacher and find it tough teaching younger girls PE, but dance feels totally different and I’m so proud of their progress. I have lunch on the go as the other half is playing football this afternoon and, while the weather is still okay, I tend to go and watch their home games. I am a Charlton fan, so if not watching the husband I get to as many Charlton games as I can, but they’re away at Gillingham today, so I’m sat in the dug-out in drizzly Bromley. They draw 1-1 after a dubious penalty decision for the other team, but should have put the game to bed long before that happened - lots of chances not capitalized on. I catch-up with a couple of the other ‘WAGS’ and have a nice cuddle with one of their new babies, but am quite happy to pass her back when she starts having a moan and a whinge. The football ground is 9k from home and I used to use this stretch as part of my marathon training route last year. I have been running 10k every Saturday since the start of the summer holidays so, after a quick change, the iPod goes in and I run home. I find it really quite difficult to switch off and relax so this run time with good songs playing is my equivalent to me time.
Finally a lie-in. I don’t rise until somewhere after 9.30am. I have a bit of work to do this afternoon and crack straight on with that with last night’s X-factor in the background, followed by the Chelsea game. We have dinner with my parents, brother and his girlfriend every Sunday and this week we’re out for dinner at a local Italian. The food is good and I get a dessert - what was the point of all the gym work otherwise?
A LIFE IN THE WEEK OF