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The global pandemic has forced all of us to quickly change the way we work, creating a series of circumstances that have challenged us all in new ways.
Multiple lockdowns and forced closures have created a stream of disruptions for schools, breaking up the usual rhythm of the education calendar and requiring teachers to find new methods for engaging their learners.
This has been difficult enough for most schools up and down the UK, but the effect is felt even more greatly where pupils have unique needs in order to make their journey through the school years.
St Christopher’s is a Special School in Wrexham, north-east Wales, catering for students aged 5-19 years of age with many different special needs. The school has long been associated with SLQ Sports Leaders, delivering leadership qualifications to learners as part of their overall education programme.
The school’s Assistant Head Teacher, Glyn Jones, believes that the pupils’ individual needs and their ability to overcome personal challenges make them ideally suited to continuing their learning in the current situation. He says: “I think this is one of the main reasons our Sports Leaders are so successful.
“They are used to inclusive activities; they understand the need to adapt activities and they are sympathetic to Children that learn differently. The Students thrive and blossom following these courses and for many it is a realisation that they can succeed and they demonstrate so much confidence.”
When the global pandemic took hold back in spring 2020, schools everywhere were forced to rip up their plans for the year, quickly needing to re-draw their curriculum and cancel exams.
This was certainly the case for schools delivering leadership qualifications, where pupils are usually required to demonstrate their development of key skills through volunteering in activities and leading their peers through different sessions. With everyone required to maintain social distance from other people, this became a real challenge for both the school and SLQ Sports Leaders as an awarding body, requiring some quick thinking and effective adaptation.
Students and teachers from St Christopher's in a virtual lesson
At the time, this would have been a difficult obstacle to overcome and would have been a great disappointment for the school’s learners, as Glyn explains: “Our 2019-2020 students were on track for yet another successful Level 2 and 3 course completion having built up many hours in planning and leading activities to local junior schools and providing opportunities for children across Wrexham that attend our half termly Festivals.
“By March and the lockdown many of them had completed far more than the required assessed leadership hours and were looking forward to the opportunities we were offering in the summer term. Up until March they had delivered weekly sessions to two local junior schools and planned and delivered three festivals to another six junior schools.
“Working with Wrexham Sports Development they were able to plan and deliver festivals in Boccia, Kinball and Tag Rugby. To come after Easter were the Football and Cricket and the culmination of all their hard work with our own National School Sports Week. There was so much to look forward to.
“Then March arrived and the news that all schools would close, blended learning took over and work was sent home. Some of our leaders took it upon themselves to organise activities for their family some shared their activities through social media, but it wasn’t the same as face to face with all the junior children we had become so fond of.”
To help schools continue delivering leadership courses and, most importantly, to ensure that learners could keep working towards their qualifications, new assessment criteria were put in place and learners were encouraged to find new ways of demonstrating their skills, something which enabled St Christopher’s and their pupils to continue, as Glyn outlines: “Our return to school in September has been very different.
“The alterations in the SLQ Sports Leaders specification helped with our planning and ensured that our existing groups and new Sports Leaders will experience the joys of leadership albeit with differences. Our level 3 group from last year spent the first two weeks finalising their Learner Evidence Records for moderation whilst our new Level 2 and 3 groups began their journey with a new specification and new ways of working.
“Our Level 3 group from last year wanted to stay on and follow a number of Governing body courses and help develop leadership across the school. My first task was to work out how we could deliver our sessions to the junior schools.
“After some discussion they decided that we would have to offer virtual sessions and a virtual sports event. Throughout October and November, they developed activities for the sports hall and classroom, they have filmed the activities and after Christmas have been sharing these with our junior school partners.
“Covid-19 has made us look at so many things we take for granted and made us look at how we move forward. All the Sports Leaders at the school also follow the ‘I Can, I Am’ course with SLQ Sports Leaders; it has been hugely successful so far and initiated many new conversations.”
Learners at St Christopher’s are continuing to work towards their Sports Leaders qualifications and are active in sharing their experiences via social media – follow them on Twitter at @pe_stchris for an inspirational insight to physical activity at this unique school.
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