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Learners at Ashford School Overcome Obstacles to Develop Leadership Skills in Lockdown

by Sports Leaders,

Posted on the 08/03/2021

Learners at Ashford School completing their leadership qualifications online

Adapting to the restrictions in place throughout 2020 and into 2021 has been a huge challenge for us all, especially in situations where interaction with others is essential. In particular school sport and Physical Education has been hugely affected, with teachers and pupils needing to be adaptable, flexible and creative in order to keep learning and building their skills.

As lessons have moved online and studying has switched to being home-based, more and more Centres have needed to find new ways to engage learners, deliver leadership sessions and monitor their development without access to traditional assessment methods.

In some ways, Centres who are new to delivering leadership qualifications may have an advantage in this respect, as they are able to look their assessment and delivery through completely fresh eyes.

One school in this position is Ashford School in Kent, where the school’s Head of Girls’ Games, Caroline Morris, has been instrumental in establishing and delivering leadership Qualifications this academic year. Since starting the courses in autumn, the school has already had to switch delivery plans, which Caroline explains: “We only started delivering in October 2020 and we’re currently running the Level 3 as an option for our Year 12 and 13 BTEC Sport cohort.

“We wanted to start small as it is our first time running the course. However, seeing how successful it has been in such a short space of time, we are already making plans to extend the opportunity to more of our Sixth Form students in the near future and we will also look at the possibility of a Level 2 course for Key Stage 4 pupils.”

With regulations and guidance around schools and social interactions changing regularly in the UK, the school has needed to adapt accordingly to keep pupils working towards their leadership qualifications. Caroline explains: “Our students were initially using a mix of paper and digital versions of the Learner Evidence Records (LERs) whilst in school. The first thing I did when schools closed was to set them all up with online versions of the LER as a shared document in MS OneDrive – this was a tip I picked up from one of Sports Leaders’ webinars, where another tutor shared some useful ideas!

“This makes monitoring and supporting the students far easier; there’s no need for them to email me a copy and I can help them real-time in lessons, giving one-to-one feedback either verbally or by adding notes to their document and also ensuring that they are all on task.

“In terms of practical adaptations, I was keen to keep the practical element of the course going right from the start, so initially I led a few games that we played together online and then asked them to create and lead some too; they chose things like paper target throws, scavenger hunts, quizzes and some more random ones too.

“This kept the element of competition which they love, but also built their confidence in front of camera as initially they were reluctant to even turn their cameras on for our lessons!”

One element of leadership qualifications that has been impacted by restrictions is the ability of schools to host live physical activity events, which usually enable learners to put their skills into practice. Most often, these events take the form of sporting competitions or festivals for younger pupils to participate in, where leadership learners perform the roles of event organisers and volunteers.

To overcome the challenges of delivering events like this, Ashford’s students again needed to be creative, as Caroline outlines: “The learners decided they wanted to deliver to Year 8 students and they sent out a MS Forms survey to find out what type of activities they enjoy doing, whether they would prefer mixed or single sex etc.

“They then chose a wide range of activities based on this and planned together a one-hour sessions with four different activities and finishing with an online quiz on the Kahoot platform.

“After a trial run of the session with a Year 7 and Year 10 group via MS Teams, they reflected and evaluated on the plans as a group, removing some elements and resolving issues that arose from using the chat function, thumbs-up features and sharing screens. In addition, they asked students to complete a survey for their feedback, which was a real confidence boost for them as the pupils were very positive in their responses.

“The live event itself took place on Friday at 3pm so the leaders avoided missing their timetabled lessons. We gave the younger students lots of notice of this and built up the excitement to help improve attendance. They had around 50 students attend all together in two separate groups on MS Teams, so two leaders led to one group and three led to the other – we also had teachers present who had fun joining in too.

“Response to the course and events has been really positive. The leaders have appreciated having a fixed event to work towards and give them motivation – it also gave a purpose to all the silly games I made them play initially!”

Switching to online and virtual delivery hasn’t been without complications though, which has required the learners to test themselves in an extra dimension, something Caroline feels has been a benefit to them. She says: “The most difficult thing they found was delivering to the trial groups when students didn’t have their cameras or microphones on. They found this quite demoralising and struggled to maintain enthusiasm and motivation at first.

“We helped this by making a scavenger hunt their first activity, where students were required to put their cameras on to show their items, which had the desired effect. With the younger students in years 3-6, cameras were not an issue at all – it was more about the Leaders having to ask them to mute at appropriate times in order to be heard!

“As a result, practical assessments have still been possible through observation of their live sessions. I am able to switch between groups easily on MS Teams, where we can also record sessions with student permission. Having digital copies of the witness statements also makes it easy for other PE teachers to have an input.”

With the early months of 2021 bringing positive developments to the pandemic, schools are beginning to look ahead and think about the future. Caroline believes that the experience of the last few months will be important for young people and that leadership skills will be more important than ever. She says: “Although the post-pandemic world will bring unique challenges for our next generation of aspiring leaders, leadership qualities have always been fundamentally important skills to develop and nurture.

“When we look ahead to some of the challenges our young people will face: global threats to health, the AI-driven technological revolution, global warming; the ability to be flexible when faced with adversity and to lead change will be directly linked to both success and personal happiness.

“Leadership skills have never been so important and I am delighted that at Ashford School we have found ways to enhance the experiences of our students throughout this lockdown period and will continue to do so as we begin to plan our return to the school setting.”

You can find out more about delivering leadership qualifications at your school or education setting here. Alternatively, if you are interested in delivering our courses, use this form to register your details and a member of our team will contact you to learn more about your requirements.

Categories for this post: Good News Stories

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