Why is sport so popular with students and practitioners alike and what routes are there into studying or teaching sport? We caught up with Selby College HND Course Leader, Lecturer in Sport and former Secondary Curriculum Leader of P.E. Richard Burgess to discuss potential routes into studying a sport qualification and the career paths that await after completion.
Like many, Richard took a more traditional route into teaching, ‘I’d always had a passion for P.E. throughout school and followed that through into doing a degree at Teesside Uni. I finished Uni and worked as a Cover Supervisor in a Secondary and found a real passion for it. After that, I started like a lot of teachers – I completed a PGCE in Secondary P.E. and have been doing it ever since.’
With over 52,000 16-18-year-old students studying sport in 2018/19, and over 7500 UCAS applications from potential PE teachers alone, sport (and associated qualifications) contribute hugely to life in Secondary school, sixth form and FE colleges.
In P.E. and sport, it’s not just competition for teacher training places which is fierce – finding the right role can be equally (and sometimes more) difficult. Were there any challenges to finding a first permanent role? ‘It was tough at first, but I got some fantastic experience as a coach, worked as an outdoor activity supervisor and as an Exam Invigilator. I worked as a Cover Supervisor and was fortunate that they had a vacancy and knew what I could do, so took me on permanently.’
Why should teachers vary their range of settings?
As difficult as it might have been at times, Richard explains that having a variety of roles has been hugely beneficial both to his CV and to develop his teaching: ‘It taught me so much about resilience and how to be flexible and adaptable in the classroom – there are different demands with each of those roles and it gave me excellent preparation for the next steps of my career.’
Working as a Teacher of P.E. in a large Secondary school in Yorkshire, Richard then moved into a role as a leader and started a new role as Curriculum Leader for P.E. Having excelled as both practitioner and leader, Richard then made the move to further education for reasons that have become all too common: ‘I was contemplating leaving following what I deemed excessive workload (and scrutiny). Certainly, in Secondary, I found the focus is on core subjects which can feel demoralising for practitioners working outside of those areas.’
Different horses suit different courses and different age groups. Now working as a HND Course Leader and Lecturer in Sport, Richard thinks it’s the best career decision he has made: ‘Personally, as a student, I enjoyed the FE experience more than secondary, and during my teaching I felt much more at ease working with older students and found it more rewarding.’
With a range of knowledge of both FE and Secondary, Richard explains that although FE and Secondary have great differences, the similarities are obvious: ‘The main aim is still to help students and achieve and build relationships.’
But how did the move into FE come about? ‘I did two placements when I was training and both of those schools had a Sixth Form, so I’ve always been interested in Post-16 education. It’s a massively rewarding experience being able to see those next steps into Higher Education or employment and that was why I was so interested in working in Further Education. I found the role online and was obviously really excited by it. I applied straightaway and I haven’t looked back.’
Is sport teaching rewarding?
With between 15,000 and 18,000 students competing in college sporting competitions each week, there is clearly a demand for a diverse range of training experiences and qualifications. Richard explains that this diversity is one of the most satisfying and engaging elements of his job: ‘There’s a real mix between students who have excelled in PE and Sport at school, and those who are unsure of what they want to do in the future. It’s challenging at times: engaging all learners during theoretical concepts; making the learning active; preparing them for external assessments but seeing achievements in a practical setting and their next steps makes it all worthwhile.’
What advice would he pass on to those entering the profession?
Having worked as a Manchester United Soccer Schools coach and also played sport at a high level, Richard has used many of the skills learned in teaching in other areas of his life. ‘In the beginning, you’ll need to dedicate all of your time to the job - it’s difficult to manage time effectively, but remember it becomes easier as you gain more experience. Prioritise your well-being and enjoy your downtime – being reflective and adaptable will help so much.’
With enrolments for sport courses continuing to rise, we’ll hopefully be welcoming many more P.E. and sports lecturers to the profession in the coming years.
About the author
Jonny Kay is Head of English and maths at Tyne Coast College. He has previously worked as an English teacher and Head of Department in KS3/4 and tweets @jonnykayteacher . He also regularly blogs at www.thereflectiveteacher.co.uk.