Coaches working on the Schools Sports Programme have been informing teachers about how it will be delivered as kids return to school following the latest Covid-19 lockdown.
Let Them Play Officers from the Irish FA Foundation staged webinars with teachers from across Northern Ireland to discuss how the programme has developed and evolved over the years and plans for its future delivery.
Ronan O’Donnell, LTPO for Causeway Coast and Glens, who led on the webinars project, said: “With all that has gone on over the past year we saw this as a brilliant opportunity to engage with teachers on a larger scale.
“In the last term before Covid we worked with nearly 250 teachers a week when delivering sessions in schools. The webinars gave us the chance to bring the teachers together and to share knowledge and understanding of the programme and to engage with one another.”
Coaches working on the Department of Education-funded programme – it isrun by the foundation and Ulster GAA – will continue to use webinars in future to keep teachers up to date with programme activities.
Pauline Mille, a teacher from St Eithne’s Primary in Derry-Londonderry, said: “It will be invaluable for teachers to have access to lesson plans and activities so we can do follow-up sessions with the children. This support will certainly increase my confidence in delivering PE to my class.”
And Michelle Dunn, a teacher from Hollybush PS in Derry-Londonderry, said: “In breakout rooms the overall feeling was how amazing all the coaches are and we would be lost without them.”
Amanda Morton, the Sports Programme co-ordinator, explained that throughout the pandemic the coaches have continued to engage and support schools.
She said the webinars had enabled teachers from participating schools to learn how the programme will work going forward, while it also highlighted the long term benefits for both the children and staff involved.
“Covid has been difficult for us all, however it has allowed us to explore new methods for delivery and we feel moving forward webinars could be really beneficial and a fantastic new way for us to engage with the stakeholders in our programme,” she added.
In recent months the physical literacy and health education programme – it is designed to interact with 32,000 Key Stage 2 students during the school year - has been offered remotely to primary schools in the 11 council areas across Northern Ireland due to the coronavirus crisis.
However, with the return of Years 1-3 pupils to schools this week, the foundation and GAA coaches have been back in schools once again delivering sessions.
Andy Hardy, the Let Them Play Officer for the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council area, said: “It’s been great to support Foundation and KS1 teachers in the delivery of PE this week. We have been supporting teachers remotely since the turn of the year but there’s nothing better than face to face delivery.
“I am not sure who is more excited, myself or the children I am coaching. It shows the value in the DENI programme that the schools are so keen to have us back in working with the staff and children and we hope our programme can play an important role in helping the kids settle back into school life.”
Carrick Primary in Lurgan was among the schools Andy has been coaching in this week.
Miss J Parker, the P3 teacher at the school, said: “‘The return of the Let Them Play Officers is a great opportunity for the younger pupils at Carrick Primary to benefit from the coaching skills of the IFA over the next few weeks.
“The timing of these sessions is perfect. Due to Covid lockdown the children have not been able to be as active as they normally would be.”
Image: Kids at Carrick Primary in Lurgan take part in the Schools Sports Programme.