Investigate and critically evaluate and reflect upon the subject responsibility for providing for and achieving the five outcomes of ‘Every Child Matters’ Recent Government strategies including the green paper ‘Every Child Matters’ (ECM) published in 2003 and the subsequent Children Act passed in 2004, have undoubtedly sought to enhance the support for children perceived to be vulnerable and in need (Medcalf et al 2006).
The ECM agenda is one of the many legislative documents concerned in the implementation of the Children Act 2004. This document came in response to the public inquiry into the murder of Victoria Climbie, a child who suffered an unjustifiable death in the hands of the people who were meant to show her the love and attention that every child deserves, but yet they became the cause for her tragic death (Cheminais 2007). This enquiry therefore called for a radical change in the transform of children’s services.
It became essential that services to children would play a role in the protection of children from harm and will optimize the well- being, life chances and potential for all children as a means of providing them with a better start in life (DfES 2004). The passing of the Children’s Act and the publication of Every Child Matters: Change for children (DfES 2004) for the first time provided the legislative and policy structure for developing more effective and accessible services focused around the needs of children, young people and families, as a means of maximising opportunity and minimising risk (Weare 2007).
As noted, this agenda did not only focus on the needs of all children and young people but also the needs of those who care for them. However, one would have to highlight the matter in which, this current legislation only took effect in 2004 yet how many children and families have passed through and possibly slipped through the system beforehand (Oliver 2008). Therefore, it is essential to suggest that the system of education, previous to the implementation of such acts, failed to meet the needs of children and families, and have neglected their duty and responsibility to education (Wedell 2008).
As a result of this radical change in policy, the reshaping of children’s services targeted schools as an environment which was already available to children. As stated by DfES (2006), schools are well positioned to take an active role in implementing the new legislation and every teacher, paraprofessional and education support services will become primary agents in implementing this agenda. Furthermore, schools have the opportunities to help improve the life chances of all children and young people and have the ability to overcome obstacles faced by many children.
As a result of this, it was suggested that schools take a more personalised approach to learning within which, teachers were required to identify children’s needs and modify their planning in order to meet these needs (DfES 2004). As a result of the ECM agenda, five outcomes essential to the development of children were suggested. These include, being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and achieveing economic well being (Cheminais 2007).
As a result, schools were required to create opportunities within and beyond the current curriculum in which these outcomes could be reached and furthermore, schools were encouraged to enhance and develop the already effective provision (Reid 2005). However, it is suggested that consequently, the current government legislation and initiatives have generated professional debate amongst teachers in terms of what new policy directives will mean for their practice (Szwed 2007).
It is also illustrated that, surely if schools are to become the ‘primary agents’ in implementing change, then clearly more attention needs to be paid to processes involved in introducing new policy arrangements as practice (Thomas & O’Hanlon 2007). Subsequently, there is a greater demand for increased and improved ITT and CPD within and beyond schools, which as highlighted, is not always available to all teachers (Vickerman 2007).
When considering the subject of Physical Education (PE), it is believed that this subject has useful opportunities to actively engage in the delivery of the outcomes of ECM national framework’ (Griggs & Wheeler 2007:274) One must also suggest that PE in the past has been renowned for its abilities to develop the ‘whole child’ beyond just physical skills but also skills which are ‘transferable to the world beyond’ (Griggs & Wheeler 2007, Kirk et al 2006). For example, leadership, management, team work or organisational skills, all of which are required in the world of work (Laker 2000).
Therefore, it is essential to suggest that PE plays a significant role in the delivery of the five outcomes of ECM. Upon consideration of the ECM outcome ‘being healthy’, PE can contribute significantly. As indicated within the Sport playing it part (2005) issued by Sport England, it is suggested that PE can encourage young people to adopt a healthy lifestyle by increasing their knowledge and understanding of how to be healthy. For example, discussions and reflections within lessons with regards to healthy diet and levels of physical activity.
It has further been recognised by Hardy & Mawer (1999) that PE not only focuses on the physical development of the child but also that of social and emotional development and in particular, plays an important part in developing confidence and self esteem, which in turn raises standards across the whole curriculum. For example, it is suggested that PE offers various opportunities for pupils to mix socially with peers and throughout games and group work. Furthermore, PE creates opportunities to achieve and reach goals and aspirations, thus developing ones self esteem and healthy state of mind (Bailey & Kirk 2009).
Upon investigation in school A, it was observed that the teachers have employed further strategies to promote healthy and active lifestyles. School A has been rewarded national healthy schools status where they aim to equip children and young people with the skills and knowledge to make healthy and life choices regarding their health. School A deliver a breakfast club in the morning to promote a healthy start to the day and encourage pupils to take breakfast.
Furthermore, they provide additional healthy lunches and snacks throughout the school day, which again cater for healthy lifestyles and allow pupils to make informed choices regarding diet. Additionally, the PE department share a collaborative cross curricular link with the home economics department where, within each department, they share the responsibility in the deliver of specific modules. For example, modules on diet and food ingredients are shared as a cross curricular link between departments.
Also, school A, as a sports college, also provide additional opportunities in ‘being healthy’, as it is compulsory for all pupils to participate in GCSE PE which comprises of healthy lifestyle modules, thus educating their pupils on healthy lifestyles and diet. As noted by Cheminais (2007), the ‘being healthy’ outcome also incorporates the mental and social health of children and young people and also their families. With regards to this, School A open their facilities at lunch times and in the evening for their pupils and the public. This is provided as an attempt to develop not only ones physical health but also heir mental and emotional health. As it is stated that physical activity has an array of benefits in relation to ones self esteem and confidence (Laker 2000). Upon entry into sports facilities at school A, notice boards aim to educate others on healthy lifestyles and display further opportunities for participation within additional clubs other than schools. However, one must consider that these resources are not always available to all schools. As noted by Visser & Stokes (2003), arguably it is easier to promote good practice through the use of resources, however, resources are dependent upon large -scale finance.
As a sports college, School A are able to provide this service partly due to the funding already provided to them. However, schools without the funding available may encourage and promote clubs to the young people and their families through appropriate advertisement and links with outside clubs and schools. A further outcome of ECM is ‘staying safe’, upon which the government aim to keep children and young people safe from neglect, violence, bullying, crime or anti social behaviour both in and out of school.
As noted by Bailey and Kirk (2009), physical activity can help to promote community structures and decrease the likelihood of young people being victims of crime, anti social behaviour, bullying or discrimination. For example, creating opportunities where children are supervised by adults whilst taking part in sporting activities rather than been on the streets. Furthermore, it is stated that pupils can’t learn if they don’t feel safe or if health problems create barriers to achievements.
It is noted by DfES (2004), education is the most effective route for young people out of poverty and disaffection which is clearly the overall aims of this government’s strategy. As a means to tackle this, school A offer extra curricular clubs to their students before and after school as a method of increasing participation but also contributing to reduced rates of crime or anti social behaviour whereby children and young people are in clubs rather than on the streets thus challenging people through sport rather than crime.
Through providing this link to the pupils and the community, school A is contributing to the development of stronger social networks whereby young people mix with alternative peer groups, for example other schools or the wider community. Thus, generating awareness of difference and reducing discrimination and bullying (Sport England 2005). However, on the other hand, whilst school A have the support from staff to succeed in this, one must suggest that not all teachers are prepared to offer extra time to run early morning or after school clubs.
In support of this, Griggs & Wheeler (2007) states that a challenge faced by many PE departments is that other teachers are often resistant to extending their sporting programmes of extra curricular clubs partly due to the work demands already placed on them. In reflection of the workforce and the introduction of such initiatives, it is stated that ‘there are so many policies, each with their own particular slant, that it is difficult for anyone to keep abreast of them all and their meanings’ (Ainsow et al 2006:30).
Furthermore, Kalambouka et al (2007) suggests that every policy represented, implements a new set of principles and measures as a means of targeting pupils needs. However, it has been recognised that the layering of these new policies on top of previous policies, yet to take effect, are affecting the objective in mind and thus affecting the attitude of staff involved. For example, it is correct to suggest that teachers view new policies as extra planning and changes in practice in order to identify pupil’s needs (Griggs & Wheeler 2007).
Therefore, is the number of changes to policies and the time given to implement these policies, having an internal effect on the system? As exemplified by Visser and Stokes (2003:73) it is suggested that ‘law cannot force a change of attitude but can lay down a framework that can only encourage’. Therefore, it is essential to suggest and as supported by Ainsow et al (2006), schools must recognise, provide and support their staff when implementing new policies and procedures similar to that of ECM agenda.
An additional method in which school A promote ‘staying safe’ is reflected within many curriculum lessons whereby pupils are encouraged and educated on safety within PE. Appendix 1, a gymnastics unit, demonstrates how pupils are educated to warm up correctly, complete safe stretching exercises, safety on and off equipment and safety of others. Furthermore, pupils are encouraged to lead warm ups and stretching exercises for others, as a means of allowing pupils to become more involved practically on keeping safe in physical activity.
In light of the ‘enjoy and achieve’ outcome of ECM, it is essential to recognise that PE can contribute significantly to achieving this outcome. Within this outcome, the government wish to encourage children and young people to have positive attitudes towards education, behave well and have a good school attendance records (DfES 2004). This has been reflected within the new national curriculum for PE where schools have the responsibility to provide a broad and balanced curriculum in which teachers should personalise learning to meet the specific needs of individual children (Hayes & Stidder 2003).
For example, the use of personal, learning and thinking skills (PLT) to allow pupils to enjoy PE in ways other than physical. It is noted that schools should take more personalised approaches to pupils’ learning in order to help them achieve the highest possible goals which, therefore widens access to the curriculum (DfES 2004). School A successfully fulfils this criteria through the use of PLT’s and the dedication of roles, such as, leaders, coaches or performers.
However, whilst school A plan for personalisation, other teachers see this as yet more paperwork to fill in, thus affecting teacher’s decision to plan for the needs of all children. Therefore, teachers may continue to deliver normal practice as a means to avoiding additional paperwork and planning (Griggs & Wheeler 2007). With particular focus on children with special educational needs, it is essential to suggest that teachers must recognise children’s needs and be able to respond in order to overcome barriers to achievements.
Teachers must recognise that they have a responsibility to cater for this child and must collaborate with various members of staff, for example the school SENCO (Wedell 2008). As noted within the ECM agenda, teachers have a responsibility to actively seek advice from other professionals and have a responsibility to collaborate with other specialist professionals to overcome barriers to learning (DfES 2005). For example, through accessing a child’s individual education plan (IEP) a teacher may develop improved understandings with regards to how the child learns, thus affecting the planning process.
Within school A, each teacher is provided with IEP’s at the beginning of the academic year (appendix 2). As a result, teachers can then employ methods of differentiation (appendix 3) or seek further advice thus allowing all pupils full access to curriculum. However, as stated by Hayes & Stidder (2003:2), for any government initiative to work, ‘we must promote the education of teachers and those responsible for the delivery of PE and in particular educate their skills in identifying when a child needs help’.
Furthermore, critical to the success of these reforms is increasing the skill, confidence and competence of the workforce which consequently takes time (DfES 2006). For example, providing teachers with the necessary skills to identify and plan for the inclusion of children with special needs. As a result of this and as stated by Vickerman (2007), the introduction of such legislation calls upon ITT providers and qualified teachers to review their existing practice and further again, schools and training agencies employ the responsibility of providing teachers with the essential skills for practice.
However, there is question as to whether this change actually occurs, thus affecting the workforce at the centre of this process (Slee 2001). In relation the ECM agenda, the new national curriculum implemented a major focus on developing the competences of learning with particular emphasis on citizenship, relating to people, managing situations and shared learning in groups (NC 2007). As a means of addressing this, School A offer each year group a sport education programme in which students take on roles other than that of a performer. Thus, developing skills other than that of physical within PE.
For example, developing roles like coaches, team organisers, referees or creative roles and as supported, the ‘sport education offers pupils a positive, inclusive engaging and enjoyable sporting experience’ (Kirk et al 2006:597). As stated by Sport England (2005), adoption of different teaching methods, like sport education, can have a positive impact on behaviour, attendance, attitude and achievements within PE. And so, school A saw the impact of this model when they witnessed pupils, who beforehand never showed an interest in PE, actually has something different to offer.
As a result, pupil’s attendance improved in PE, pupils appeared on task and there were less issues regarding kit. A further strategy which School A employ as a means of reaching ‘enjoy and achieve’ outcome is a initiative called ‘earn to learn’. Within this strategy, pupils are rewarded with credits as a reward for good behaviour, correct kit (appendix 4) and achievements within PE. Pupils collect credits throughout each term and at the end, each pupil receives vouchers according the number of credits earned.
This method encourages pupils to attend PE, behave appropriately within lessons and participate, thus leading to higher achievements. This strategy made a major difference to the pupils within PE, particularly those in KS4. The department saw an improvement in presentation of kit and attitudes towards PE over just a short period of time and still continue to deliver this strategy. Further again, PE can offer pupils opportunities to use their success in sport for further achievements (Griggs & Wheeler 2007). With regards to this, School A highlight those students who are gifted and talented (G&T) within sport (appendix 2).
Through appointing a G&T co-ordinator within school A, pupils have become recognised for their potential and have been provided with opportunities to develop further. For example, creating training sessions in the morning, creating links outside school, providing allowances on academic studies and more flexible timetables. Broadening gifted students further, School A offer a fast track system where, pupils will be selected within GCSE PE classes to sit their exam a year early and therefore take on a BTEC route or an A-level route within PE as a means to increase their PE achievements.
As a result, school A now run BTEC courses for year 10 pupils and A-level courses to year 11 pupils therefore, developing achievements within PE. Moreover, this opportunity provides pupils with career pathways thus having the potential to reach the outcome of ‘achieving economic well -being’. Within this outcome, the government aim to engage pupils in further education and employment. And so, providing these opportunities within school A, pupils are provided with opportunities to progress to sports courses in further education or possible careers in coaching
The final outcome of ECM involves ‘making a positive contribution’ within which the government aim to engage children and young people in the community and environment, develop positive behaviour in and out of school and developing positive relationships and self confidence (Cheminais 2007). As stated by Sport England (2005:11), ‘sport provides many options for young people as volunteers and is one of the most popular choices among young people, including those ‘hard to reach’ people’.
Through providing voluntary options to young people, sport is creating opportunities other than just academic studies and moreover, it allows pupils to learn practically, thus catering for many learning styles (Grigg & Wheeler 2007). Within school A, pupils are offered opportunities of leadership courses like JSLA and the Duke of Edinburgh award where pupils go out to the community and make contributions through voluntary work and delivering sporting activities.
Pupils are also provided with opportunities within extra curricular clubs whereby older students act as coaches to younger students of the school. Again, this outcome contributes to that of ‘achieving economic well-being whereby, pupils are given opportunities to develop pathways in coaching. However, it is essential to highlight that not all schools have the ability to provide such courses and costs often restrict the options open to pupils and teachers (Smith & Thomas 2006). In conclusion, one must consider the effectiveness of the ECM outcomes and its relation to PE.
It is evident through an investigation within school A that the five outcomes of ECM can effectively be reached in many ways and PE in particular provides various opportunities to do so. However, it is essential to recognise and state that school A is a sports college with additional funding compared to that of other schools. Therefore, is it right to suggest that not all schools will be able to fund for the resources and facilities which school A can offer or is it a matter of building upon the resources already provided as a means of building upon practice (DfES 2006).
Further, Florian (2008) suggests that the government are keen to implement theories and policies as a means of overcoming barriers to learning however; there is never a great deal of practice provided to teachers, to ensure the full delivery of these policies. Furthermore, teachers have highlighted and expressed concern in that they do not have the sufficient knowledge or skills to be able to identify and provide for the various needs of pupils (Vickerman 2007). The challenges that schools and teachers will face in the wake of ECM will be enormous. It is vitally important to ensure that individual schools will have the managerial capacity them to accept their new roles and challenges’ (Reid 2005:18). Therefore, it is crucial to suggest that the implementation of ECM is starting to take effect however; more practical measures still need to be taken to ensure that the needs of the workforce are met in order to ensure the effective delivery of ECM outcomes. Thus, for the ECM initiative to take affect, it is necessary to suggest that this will take tangible steps which will eventually move towards achieving long term goals (DfES 2006).