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Q&A with editor Malcolm Tozer on new book examining role of physical education and sport in independent schools July 9, 2012

Posted by Jonathan Barnes, editor in Independent Education, New releases.
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We’re pleased to report brisk sales and excellent feedback to our new title, Physical Education and Sport in Independent Schools.

The book, edited by Malcolm Tozer, is essential reading for headteachers, directors of sport, PE teachers and sports coaches, especially as the UK prepares for the 2012 Olympic Games and prepares to build on its legacy.

The title features contributions from top sportspeople and leading educators. For a full list of contributors and chapter titles, see this earlier post.

We asked Malcolm, a former physical education teacher at Uppingham School and headmaster at Northamptonshire Grammar School and Wellow House School, some questions about his inspiration for the book and how he went about putting it together…

Have you always been closely involved with PE and sport throughout your career? Has sport been a lifelong passion?

I was fortunate to attend schools and universities where PE and sport were important; I always enjoyed participating in PE and sport; so it was natural for me to want to continue with both when I became a teacher. And yes, I was involved with both throughout my teaching career, even in the sixteen years when I was a headmaster.

What was your inspiration for putting the book together?

It was a happy day when I was asked to produce the book and to be given free rein to plot my own course. The starting point was Jonathan Edwards’s story, for I knew how much he owed to his PE teacher. This led to the other essays in the Lasting Benefits sections. I then went back to State of Play to record what was going on in schools – and why – and finally I went forward to raise the questions in Talking Points. Thanks to the ready responses from all the contributors, the end product did indeed closely match the original concept.

The book is divided into sections that look at the historical context, the current ‘state of play’, the ‘lasting benefits’ of a sporting education and various talking points. How important was it to present an holistic view of PE and sport?

Very important – not least because this was a chance in a generation to tell the whole story – for nothing like it had been published during my teaching career. PE and sport contribute hugely to an holistic education, so it was important to examine all aspects of their contribution – whether to health and fitness or through personal development.

Is there any precedent in literature on PE and sport in independent schools?

Brian Ashley, then at Marlborough College, contributed the findings of a survey on PE in boys’ independent schools, mainly boarding ones, to a Schools Council enquiry on PE in secondary schools in 1974. I know of nothing else – which explains why as I was keen to grab the opportunity.

Some leading names in sport – Jonathan Edwards, Sir Clive Woodward, Baroness Grey-Thompson – have written chapters and HRH The Princess Royal supplied the foreword. How did you secure their involvement?

I know Jonathan’s PE teacher, so that introduction was easy; Clive did some coaching at Uppingham School when I taught there, so that was easy too. I was determined to have an essay on sport for disabled pupils. I had met Tanni just once and I kept pressing (she is very busy with the Paralympics) until she said ‘yes’. So personal contacts over 40 years of teaching captured most of the contributors. HRH heard about the book from a mutual friend, I was told that she liked the concept, and so I wrote to Buckingham Palace. I was delighted when she said ‘yes’ and her foreword sets the tone of the whole book.

What are your hopes for the book?

The book started off as means for governors, heads and teachers to review their provision for PE and sport, but the range and quality of the essays meant that it should have a broader appeal. Groups who might want to know what goes on in independent schools in the UK include prospective parents, potential teachers, students and lecturers at universities, and foreign physical educationalists – the book is being reviewed in countries across the world. Many former pupils and teachers of these schools have already bought the book, and there is much to interest the general sports enthusiast.

What are the major developments and changes in the teaching of PE and provision of sport that you have seen in your career?

PE played a major role in state schools from the late 1930s but it was only from the late 1960s that independent schools began appointing PE specialists. Much was learnt from state schools. PE in independent schools has gone from strength to strength since then. Sport in independent schools has a longer history, and its strong position has been maintained despite all the many pressures on curriculum time, and even when many state schools have let sport go. The very best in PE and sport can now be found in many independent schools.

How do you see the teaching of PE and provision of sport developing or changing in the coming years?

The biggest challenge comes in the role of the non-specialist games teacher. PE and sport in girls’ schools has always been taught by PE specialists, but in boys’ and co-educational schools non-specialists who teach another subject have long contributed in their own sports. But as the pressure for better examination results increases, as the scope of the sporting programme broadens, as the expectation that all pupils should be in a team grows, as the best use of expensive teachers’ time comes under bursarial scrutiny – so the hiring of peripatetic sports coaches will surely grow. Many schools now have a director of sport working alongside the director of PE, and part of the former’s role involves the employment of visiting coaches.

To order a copy of Physical Education and Sport in Independent Schools, visit our bookshop by clicking here.

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