An initiative launched this year to build boys’ performance and confidence in the classroom has become so dynamic it’s quickly transitioned to include girls.
A gender teacher imbalance in primary schools means boys may be lacking male role models and girls may also be in need of male mentoring at schools.
The program, Primary Personal Development Health and Physical Education Specialist Pilot Program, was launched this year by launched by Eastern Region Director, Elizabeth O’Carrigan, with the appointment of four PDHPE teachers in the Eastern Region of the Archdiocese.
“They’ve all been impressive,” said Les Salisbury, Program Coordinator and former Assistant Principal at Marcellin College, Randwick.
They’re so impressive, they’ve all been offered jobs for next year.
The program runs from Years 4 to 6 at six Primary schools provides students with positive male and female sport role models to improve the quality and quantity of sport available to all students.
“Engagement is critical for all students, but with boys there’s a particular need to support their relationship-building and sport has been identified as a key means of addressing that,” said Mr Salisbury.
He said the initiative replaces the previous system where outside specialists visited schools.
“The PE Specialists will be able to build relationships with the boys who are located in the school rather than PE Specialists who may only visit the school once a week,” said Mr Salisbury.
Another important aspect of the program was the recruitment of peer mentor groups from the Secondary schools nearby that help coach and train the children.
Boys from Marcellin College Randwick and girls from St Clare’s College Waverley and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College Kensington referee games at their nearby schools. Boys from Champagnat Catholic College Pagewood and Marist North Shore have also been involved as mentors.
Ry Kato is one of the four new PDHPE specialists and works between the two campuses of St Margaret Mary’s Catholic Primary School Randwick North on Mondays and Tuesdays and St Brigid’s Catholic Primary School Coogee on Thursdays and Fridays with alternating Wednesdays at either school.
Then each week at Centennial Park the pilot schools meet up with each other and their mentors on Thursdays for sport with 15 teams of girls and 13 of boys. The girls play touch football and the boys play a new hybrid of NRL Touch Football called ‘League Touch’.
“Giving them opportunities like this it’s got that social element, being able to play team sport on top of what they learn in school. I think it does wonders for their self-esteem,” said Mr Kato, a qualified Primary teacher.
He said while his role is primarily to provide the PE element he also teaches Personal Development and Health.
In addition, he is in the classroom on Wednesdays teaching literacy and Mathematics. The specialists also do playground duty and can participate in the full life of the school.
“At St Brigid’s we separate the boys and girls in Stage 3, I’ve found that in terms of boys’ education, boys are a lot more competitive when they’re with the girls, if they’re mixed I find they don’t really let the girls have a turn. We’ve got a very competitive bunch of boys so we decided to put them separately – and it works much better,”
“I’ve been told by the classroom teachers it’s actually helping them in the classroom,” he said.
Mr Kato said he teaches gross motor skills to develop the children’s skills in sports and focuses on two to three sports per term.
James Kennedy is the new PDHPE Specialist at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School Randwick five days a week. He teaches PE from K-6 and also runs morning fitness classes.
“I’ve been a casual/temporary teacher for the last four years, mainly in high schools, but I felt the need to change to Primary schools to make more of a difference,” said Mr Kennedy.
“The impact on the students is that it’s improved their fitness levels and their coordination skills, there’s been a remarkable improvement in students throughout the year. Next year I’ll be more involved in the PDH side of things, as part of the wellbeing program for the school,” he said.
More than 50 students from St Clare’s coach netball and touch football.
“We teach little kids and help out with their sport – it’s a pretty good learning curve,” said Eve Colman from Year 10.
“It’s a great opportunity to work with children and teach them new skills – it’s great fun to mentor them as older students,” said Maddie Black, also in Year 10.
The girls meet up with their charges every week and are studying a course in coaching that’s integrated with this practical experience.
St Clare’s PDHPE Teacher Ashleigh Barker said it’s a great initiative and as well as benefiting the girls it’s also provided her, and the three other St Clare’s teachers involved, with teacher networking opportunities.
“It’s role-modelling for the students and putting leadership onto them, we looked at it from the girls’ side and it’s fantastic,” she said.
Mr Salisbury said it’s hoped the program will grow to cover all schools in the Eastern Region.
Schools currently involved are: Galilee Catholic Primary School Bondi Beach, St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School Clovelly, St Brigid’s Catholic Primary School Coogee, OLSH Catholic Primary School Randwick, St Margaret Mary’s Catholic Primary School Randwick North and Holy Cross Catholic Primary School Woollahra.
Six more schools will joint he program in 2016.
He said part of the PDHPE Specialist job description had been to facilitate inter-school competitions and link the Primary and Secondary schools involved.
“By forging greater bonds… there’s a clear systemic pathway with older students mentoring the younger ones,” said Mr Salisbury.
“From a boy’s education point of view a big part of their education is providing positive male role-models and relationships at school,” he said.