6 Pages

Looking and ‘feeling’ the part


Jenny let her gaze come to rest on the untidy notice-board on the end wall of the cramped, over-hot, PE office and stopped herself from sighing out aloud. Out-of-date notices, the latest Head of Year missive, telephone numbers scribbled on bits of torn paper, and a lone black plastic whistle, hung by a frayed cord, jostled for position on its now faded, felt surface. A fly buzzed irritatingly around the room. Her colleagues looked at her and waited, silent. She noticed their folded arms across their chests and their posture, sitting back on their chairs, looking defensive. Danny tapped one foot, impatiently,

grains of sand dropping from his shoe and collecting in a small pile on the floor. This wasn’t going to be as easy as she’d thought and, for a moment, she hesitated. Did she have the energy, the determination? Getting everyone on board would take time, and a quick glance at the clock told her that, if she didn’t hurry up, her time would be up, and her chance gone. Taking a deep breath, she reiterated her point: ‘so to summarize, this is not

about change for change’s sake – it’s important for girls’ participation in PE as a whole, for who takes part, for how they feel, whether they view PE as something they feel comfortable doing – want to do. Surely we all want every pupil to feel like that, don’t we? We all know we struggle with some of the girls, and I just think we ought to consider the whole package – not just what we offer – we’ve made some good changes to the kinds of activities we’re doing … but now I am proposing we go one step further. Research in the UK shows that one of the key things that puts girls off PE is the kit they’re asked to wear, and the whole changing room/showering thing.’ ‘Research!’ Danny snorted, ‘great – so now we’re going to change every-

thing because you’re doing your masters and have read some article! Our kids all go out for PE looking the part, looking smart, all the same. We’ve worked hard over the years for that. But now we’re gonna relax our standards and let kids do what they like? Just because a few girls don’t like it, and some academic or other – who I bet’s never been anywhere near a school in the last 20 years – says so! Bloody marvellous!’ Danny tightened his arms still further, frustrated at the way in which Jenny was pushing them to agree the change, and her power to impose it, regardless of their views. Although he’d not admit it, he was still smarting over the fact that she’d been appointed to the head of department’s post two years ago. At the time he couldn’t be bothered to apply. He thought he didn’t need the hassle, what with his coaching and everything. Now it seemed his decision had come back to haunt him. Peter, in his second year of teaching and still finding his feet in the politics

of the department, did as he often did, and aligned himself with his senior male colleague’s position. He chipped in, ‘Danny’s right, we shouldn’t be changing the whole kit policy just because of one or two kids. The boys don’t complain. In fact, in my experience, most of the girls don’t, either. We already allow the Muslim girls to wear leggings, if they want to. So they’re sorted. And if we do make a change, it’s no guarantee that the others are going to get into PE anyway, so why bother upsetting things when most kids are OK? We know the kids who don’t want to do PE and, whatever we do, they’re always going to be like that!’ Danny, who wasn’t going to give way easily, added, ‘And anyway,

OFSTED1 didn’t say anything about it! They clearly don’t think we’re doing anything wrong by having a kit for PE. And the head’s always saying that part of the reason we’ve moved up the league tables is because of our uniform policy and the way we enforce it. Our kids look smart, and parents like that!’