Nansen Primary School is a large, co-educational primary academy, located in Alum Rock, Birmingham. We have 902 pupils aged between 3 and 11. The school has developed a link with the LTA – the National governing body for tennis for Great Britain - and several of my staff, including Madison Chipman and Helen Dermody, were involved in testing the new LTA Youth Schools teacher training last year. They enjoyed it so much they are continuing to teach the lessons.
Madison, a Year 5 teacher, told me she likes the fact that the cross-curricular lessons are designed so that they adapt to small spaces. At Nansen, we use our smallest hall for the lessons - but because the activities don’t require a large space, her whole class of 30 is able to participate.
“All the activities include different ideas that we could easily adapt for other lessons” Madison says. “It’s great that the children get to use lots of equipment – gloves, different-sized balls, hand mitts – it’s very adaptable for all ages and sizes. The children are physically active throughout the lessons and constantly progressing. There’s no stop and start… it just flows”.
As a head, I like the fact the inclusive nature of the lessons means all our pupils can take part, including those where English isn’t their first language, children with special needs (like autism) and children with physical disabilities (in Madison’s class there is a child with cerebral palsy). Helen says the course is so well designed that although she is an experienced PE teacher, through this she still picks up new ways to teach the children a range of different skills. She’s found the lesson plans and accompanying videos a useful point of reference and thinks teachers will find these beneficial, especially if they need a reminder of how a move or activity works. She sometimes shows the videos to the children as the visual elements make it very easy to understand.
Helen observes that during her own lessons “The children were a bit more engaged as it was something new. They’d never played tennis before. They really enjoyed all the different games; they’d do a warmup, followed by body and ball then into racket and balls – it all naturally develops. They were playing tennis in the warm-up but didn’t even realise they were doing it! In one of the sessions, they even used a balloon instead of a tennis ball, which was great fun!”.
She adds, “The children get to decide for themselves if they want to make it harder or easier. These are also transferable skills they could use in the classroom, such as asking Madison for easier or harder work”.
Madison agrees, saying “It’s definitely helping to build their character skills. I’ve noticed them becoming more independent and confident in the classroom, asking lots of questions and being engaged in the lessons. Because of this increase in confidence, they now want to be more involved in PE lessons, which wasn’t the case before".
“We’ve even taught the lessons to other children in the younger year groups – they stop me in the corridor and say 'Miss! I’m playing tennis every day now!'”.
We all agree that the impact of the LTA Youth programme has had a far reaching and positive impact on the school and its community. Helen told me: “Even the pupils you didn’t think would like it are getting involved – they have huge smiles on their faces and are eager to continue talking about it afterwards, a sign of how enjoyable they find it".
“They’ll even mention it to their parents, so I’ll get parents coming up to me in the playground the next day mentioning it, because their kids are enjoying the LTA Youth lessons so much”.
I think this speaks for itself and from our experience, I would encourage all schools to sign up!
The LTA Youth Schools programme welcomes children of all abilities to build their personal and character skills through tennis. All participating schools will be provided with a free £250 voucher in completion of the free training, to use on additional tennis coaching or equipment. Additionally, for a time limited period, schools are eligible to win a fantastic schools experience day at the National Tennis Centre. Teachers can sign up to the free training here: www.lta.org.uk/schools