Sports Consultation

Consultation, March to April 2016

The funding of extra-curricular sport a St. George’s School, Sept 2016 onwards

In December, I was tasked by the Headmaster to work with the PE dept. to develop a possible way we can safeguard what we see as the strengths of our programme of extra-curricular sport at a time of severe constraint on school budgets. That constraint is biting on all aspects of school operations and will bite further still. This paper follows a presentation on our suggested solution to the Leadership Group and Governing Body, and a meeting with a cross-section of parents of boys and girls who play extra -curricular sport at our school. We now need to ascertain the views of parents more broadly before deciding on next steps. The aim would be for any new arrangements to be in place for the autumn. The aim of this paper is to outline below the options considered, the preferred option and rationale for it, and the consequences that would follow doing nothing. We ask that you contribute your views in response.

We believe extra-curricular sport at St. George’s offers a unique mix of provision. Your child attends a school where elite sportspeople are supported to the degree that Messrs Farrell, Ford, and Itoje comprise a fifth of the England Rugby XV starting line-up: but where staff are equally engaged in trying to set up C team fixtures to maximise participation, so that people of all abilities and ambitions can enjoy competitive sport and the benefits of it. While rugby and lacrosse are the predominant sports for fixtures, we compete in all manner of other sports, and preserve recreational and non-team games in core PE. You may be interested to know that 74 girls in Year 7 played at least one match for the school this lacrosse season; and 60 Year 7 boys have done the same in rugby. This season in rugby alone, 13 teams have played 120 competitive fixtures. Our goal in this proposal is simply to sustain this level of opportunity and experience at a time when academy funding is reducing. We aim to do so by adding additional coaching staff to our excellent PE qualified teachers. The additional coaches would be in rugby and lacrosse, purely because that is the area we most frequently find ourselves short, and where qualified/ trained coaches are a necessity. But the ripple effects would be felt in other competitive sports such as netball and basketball, and in extra-curricular sport for those with least aptitude of all, because of the greater teacher availability that would result. Consistent with the values of the school and its founder, our focus is a good quality experience of competitive sport for all, not “icing the cake” of the most talented.

The last decade

It has not always been the case that students across the age and talent profile have been as involved as they are today. Ten years ago, only around a fifth to a quarter of the student body were involved in competitive sport. St. George’s was often unable to put out a senior 2 nd XV or XII.

Our current dilemma arises because parents and students have become used to this level of offer, which was built on the back of the expansion of the student roll 2007 onwards, with additional teacher posts in PE coming on stream. Money was also available as a one off from business sponsorship and the school budget for non-teacher part time coaches, and there was something of a golden period where several non-PE teachers were in a position to help out. The large number of staff involved meant that many parents joined in, especially in rugby, because the professional support we could offer them was solid. Our number of teams, corresponding number of practices, and fixture list (especially for B or C teams) expanded accordingly.

Real terms funding per student is now falling; the cost base of the school goes 75% on staffing; and sustaining a number of teaching staff beyond timetable needs in order to resource the extra-curricular programme is not possible. We are trying to run our expansive sports offer with the same sort of teacher staffing we had in 2006, when sport was a fraction of what it is now. Trying to deliver that practice programme is proving unsustainable. E.g. each core female PE teacher takes TWO lacrosse teams, each of which needs at least two practices a week, plus taking netball fixtures, winter indoor athletics etc. Some of you will already have witnessed the effect of this:

 

  1. Because of the number of slots and number of staff, practices cannot be moved; and if a staff member is unavailable will can be cancelled at short notice. This leads to understandable parent and player disaffection. Staff training, parents’ evenings, taking cup basketball or netball fixtures, staff illness all lead to unavailability. If practices cannot reliably happen, less committed players tend to drop out.
  2. We have already had to cut the number of weekly practices per squad. At the same time, the legacy participation of students is very high: a practice may have a 1:70 staff to player ratio. Ensuring the progress of all and a good experience is thus very hard.
  3. In both lacrosse (where bloc k fixtures take place on one site with multiple pitches) and rugby (where fixtures are spread home and away on the same morning), there are insufficient staff to cover the teams we could run. B teams or C teams have not always been possible, even though we have children to play in them. And good local opponents may only want to play a “block fixture” if we can compete across the board in all ages and ability profiles; we therefore find schools reluctant to include us in their fixtures calendar
  4. The combination of a lightweight practice schedule which has weak resilience, poor ratios, and lack of fixtures (on top of those cancelled due to weather etc.) means that marginal players cease to participate. Staff believe passionately in B and C team competitive sport. People progress at different rates, and many people in the senior 1st teams were not the best rated players by any means in Year 7. We do not want these parts of the programme to perish.

We have tried to take what action is possible to remedy this.

 

  1. We really appreciate parent support and make much more use of parent helpers and coaches in rugby than ever before. However, the risk of injury and combative nature of fixtures mean that they need close support and direction, which it is hard to give split across two sites.
  2. We make more use than ever of senior students to coach and umpire: but again this has to be under close teacher direction. They can support a coach but not “run” a team.

Thus, we feel our week in week out sports offer is cracking at the seams. Paradoxically our deluxe flagship offer thrives like the South Africa Rugby tour 2016, Paris Netball and rugby tour 2016, and Chester and Prague Lacrosse tours, 2015-16 because we charge its real cost to parents concerned. But we cannot simply switch from deploying staff on this kind of activity to day to day tasking. The problem is that there are not enough qualified adults at pressure points in the working week, after school or on Saturday morning, to run the broad inclusive programme we want. Front line PE staff share parental and player unhappiness and frustration; this is particularly dispiriting when the staff have not the individual capacity to meet the expectations that come from the last decade of success

To decide that we have to live with a downsize in teaching staff and run a more limited programme would have a big negative impact on student experience, opportunity, physical and emotional health and well-being at a time when teenage stress is very high already. We know that our exam data shows that students get better outcomes if they are engaging with the broader offer of the school in any way. Reduced staffing has already had an impact on our ability to run some HOUSE events, even though we still have keen players to fill twelve (or in rugby 16) teams. We foresee an impact on ability to take groups out of school to opportunities such as tournaments, cup competitions

We want to continue to run a programme that engages all the school community, not just part of it. Our preferred option at this time is to ask parents of those who join the rugby or lacrosse programmes a modest contribution to recruit non-teacher sports coaches. The focus of the posts would be in those two main outdoor sports because that is where the squeeze is currently being felt most; these are the sports practiced mostly out of the school day; and the great majority of those who play other competitive school sports do so in addition to rugby /lacrosse. It does not imply a lack of value being put on those other activities, which could be expected to benefit from the ripple effect of having more qualified staff on the team as a whole. We are looking at adding four non-teacher colleagues, working for part of the year or part time, to enable us to sustain what we do in the future.

Lacrosse:

We want to follow a model used by many independent schools and appoint one gap year school leaver (2 terms) and one coach of graduate age for lacrosse (e.g. a university leaver looking for school experience prior to training for Qualified teacher status); contracted to work noon to 6 each weekday and Saturday for fixtures. They would be focused on working directly with students; be the lead coach of team(s); be an extra pair of hands in other year groups practices; and able to support and encourage fledgling parent helpers. They would be able to provide a cover resource and capacity to avoid

practice cancellation if a colleague is ill or required elsewhere. They would do stock and kit control; booking transport; team and tour admin. Over their time in post they would train through the year to Level 2 coach standard.

Rugby:

The nature of the posts are likely to be different to the need in lacrosse. The higher risk of injury, need to protect against that injury and then to manage it should it occur, perhaps in a setting where there is only one qualified PE teacher on hand, mean we need a higher level of expertise and maturity. The coach role would also involve an ability to supervise, lead, and develop parent helpers, who tend to be more numerous in rugby. The post holders would lead teams; support teaching staff; and provide speciality coaching (kickers, line outs etc.) or coaching for less able players. We intend to look to appoint two already qualified coaches, to each work one day a week noon to 6pm and Saturday. While these staff would do less time in school, this reflects that such qualified coaches will tend to be more expensive.

The estimated total cost including training and on-costs £25,000 - £30,000 per year depending on experience, skills etc.

Funding:

The school proposal is to introduce a guide payment of £50 per player per year to join the rugby / lacrosse club, (as these sports are where the new appointees would be most focused). No contribution would be requested each school year until October half term – so that girls and boys could assess whether they wanted to commit. No payment would be asked for players in receipt of pupil premium. Parents with several children in the family would not be requested to contribute more than £100 per family per year. Contributions would be collected by ParentPay

40 players per squad contributing £50 would yield the sum needed to fund the coaches detailed. Parents have suggested that £50 be a “guide” with parents who are keen and able to pay more encouraged to do so. While originally conceived as a “compulsory payment” if a child is to take part, some parents in the launch meeting have suggested it might better be couched as a voluntary contribution. We find this attractive, and believe it would be viable so long as the level of voluntary contribution for sport ran at the same high proportion as it tends to in trips and visits run on this basis at St. George’s, where we find almost all parents do, indeed, contribute. Should the proposal be adopted, we would also look a tax efficient methods such as salary sacrifice, or channelling contributions through a charity framework.

Concerns:

The school is not lacking concern at having to make this proposal. It runs against many years of tradition that such things as extra-curricular sport should be free at the point of consumption. We have concerns at how it may impact on the nature of the relationship between parent and school staff / coach. It would be important to be clear that as with “club sport”, payment does not guarantee selection for teams…. But at least there should be a team to be selected for, and this is, remember, the key goal. There would be an admin burden to shoulder. Nevertheless, we still see it as the way forward because:

Extra-curricular sport already involves a charge to those who take part in tours etc.; it seems inconsistent to be doing this on one side, while cutting practices and opportunities elsewhere even though we could keep them alive for modest cost. The sums needed are low compared to the sums a family might spend on cricket club (£100 plus £95 for winter nets), rugby club (£180), Harpenden lacrosse club (£84 a term), driving lessons, Scouts (£100 a year), and instrumental tuition: a single DAY at a lacrosse camp costs £40. If the proposal is adopted at a rate of £50 the charge per hour per player works out at less than £1 Many parents have been animated to ask “what they can do” to secure a decent extra-curricular offer. To have a solution and not ask the parents affected would seem obtuse. We believe the interests of low income families and large families can be safeguarded. Administration through ParentPay can be done on the same basis as other extra- curricular activities, and the proposal would not require a change in Governors’ Charging Policy. Most primary schools take for granted that they need to charge to run extra-curricular sport, and some other secondary schools are taking the same step (e.g. Watford Boys). Others, no doubt, will follow.

One anxiety parents might feel is whether this is the thin end of a wedge, and whether other areas of the school may also look to do the same. Drama and Music have been mentioned in this regard. However, we believe that Sport is a unique case. Safety issues mean that rugby and lacrosse cannot be run as student led activities, in contrast to things like House

Drama and House Music, where large numbers of students can get a great experience where staff are behind the scenes but without direct staff presence and supervision. Beyond house run events, in Music in particular a high standard can be achieved through entirely student run activity e.g. a string quartet, a barber shop group, a gospel choir, or memorably, a ukulele band. Drama and Music performances are not generally “opposed” events, where the experience of the performance can be negative if you have not reached an adequate standard. There is more opportunity for individuals to meaningfully practice their individual role in drama and music, needing periodically to come together to assemble the whole.

The teachers in Drama and Music, as you know, do an awesome job: anyone who witnessed Godspell, or the recent Music Concert, or their combined efforts embodied in the Passion service, know their expertise and commitment is second to none. They too give up lunchtimes and after schools and evenings for our children. However, we do, at this time, have a reasonable “fit” between what we offer in extra-curricular Music and Theatre, and the number of teachers we have to run it (which is determined by timetable needs). The picture in terms of Sport is one of overstretch.

 

No of staff

No of extra-curricular hours of activity per week (first half, Spring Term)

Extra-Curricular hours needed per teacher per week

Music

2.2

6 (includes concerts etc. averaged over the period)

2.72

Drama

3.4

7 (includes performances etc. averaged over the period)

2.05

PE

7.2

24.25 plus 38 hours fixtures a week = 62.5 hours

8.7

 

At first sight, there may be concerns regarding equal opportunities arising from our proposal. However, the sum involved is relatively modest; players on low incomes and large families’ interests are safeguarded. The key objective is to sustain opportunity for non-elite players across the age profile; and to sustain a full range of activity across all sports. It is not about rugby players and lacrosse players, but about building capacity for everyone to access a high quality experience. An example of this is the “Tuesday club”, where our PE teaching staff run a group for the least able students to play a variety of competitive sport amongst themselves, so that they can experience all the highs and lows in a safe and affirming environment. This is unique to St Georges, and the sort of activity we can maintain only if we have enough staff in the department.

What we ask of you at this time

Please consider this paper carefully. We have briefed a number of parents engaged in both our sports programmes at this time across all ages and abilities, and we have asked them to discuss the proposal with other families as and when they can. Our proposal has been amended already on the feedback we have had.

We would like the maximum possible response to the special email in box sportsconsultation@stgeorges.herts.sch.uk And ask that as well as any comments you would like to make, you might include an answer to the following core question:

“To what degree would charging as detailed in the proposal be a barrier to your child taking part in extracurricular sport?

  1. Not significant at all
  2. Of little significance
  3. Quite significant
  4. A very significant barrier”

We are running the consultation until April 30th, following which our next step will be determined. Thanks

P. Storrie, Deputy Head, and the PE Dept. staff

Name Date  
Extra Curricular Sport Voluntary Contribution Scheme December 2016 16th December 2016 Download >
Extra Curricular Sports consultation summary for website 24th May 2016 Download >
Background