Feature: How a Warwickshire business has adapted to a new way of teaching PE to schoolchildren

During what would normally be sports day season, a local business is finding news ways of keeping youngsters active.

Sean Rellis from Onside Coaching.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Onside Coaching would normally teach PE in schools, run after school clubs and offer school holiday childcare across Warwickshire. Like many other businesses, they have had to change the way the work so they can keep children fit and having fun, while safely operating within the new school guidance.

This is how they have adapted to the challenge.

This time last year schoolchildren were out and about with no thoughts of social distancing.

Paul Green from Onside Coaching.

“Normally this would be sports day season,” says Tom Sidwell, co-founder of Onside Coaching.

“But we couldn’t be further from school fields packed with parents and children.

"Instead we have found ways to make sure children can access fun physical education whilst making sure everyone sticks to recommended guidelines.”

Under normal circumstances Onside Coaching would be teaching PE in a range of primary schools across Warwickshire, teaching a mix of sports and activities.

Lawrence from Onside Coaching.

However the new guidelines for how schools should operate have required lots of extra planning and organising.

Onside Coaching have come up with two formats for delivering their sessions - and the company is keen to point out that as well as being active both formats always focus on the emotional health and wellbeing of all children.

Given the last 14 weeks, this is something not to overlook.

“Lessons use minimal equipment and always employ social distancing, although if we do our job correctly the children will be having so much fun they will not notice it!” added Tom.

Their lessons are either based on fundamental movements, fitness, and individual skills; sessions where children do not need to be in each other’s spaces. Activities include athletics, dance and fitness based sessions.

Or they go for Forest Schools style outdoor learning. These sessions lend themselves to a more spaced out environment.

Tom said: "At Onside we have a team of qualified Forest School practitioners, which have allowed them to put together a number of individual lessons for children to participate in.

"These include challenges, map reading, scavenger hunts and problem solving to name a few.

"Onside have been perfectly placed to re-think the (hopefully) temporary way in which PE is taught.

"We have been helping some schools deliver their key worker provision since day one, so have been making decisions alongside schools about safe practice since the lockdown started.

Sean Rellis and Paul Green have been working at Bishop’s Tachbrook Primary School in Leamington.

Headteacher Andy Brettell said: “Our long established partnership with Onside Coaching has continued to flourish through the Covid national emergency.

"Each week, the staff of Onside have been absolutely critical for us in managing our provision for key workers‘ children.

"Reliable as always and with an absolutely rigorous attention to health and safety, social distancing and above all pupil welfare,

Sean and Paul at Onside have provided a wonderful support at a very challenging time.

"We have been delighted with the way that they have safely managed to plan and deliver exciting activities for our key workers’ children, who have even dug up and harvested potatoes, taken part in long jump, and created floating boats which they tested - all at the safe two metre distance!"

Onside have devised what they call a ‘coaching bubble’. Tom said: “We feel the best way to teach is to remain contactless.

"Onside staff will not enter classrooms, unless in emergencies of course, and they will remain outside “the bubble” at all times.

"With pre-planning and careful setup, each lesson will be delivered from a safe distance.”

Onside Coaching has also recently set up a teacher forum for social distanced PE ideas and now have 112 teachers across the country - and even one in South Africa.