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PrimaryHealth & Wellbeing

Behaviour – Teaching our football-loving boys teamwork and fair play

How one school promoted a group of young lads into the Premier League of behaviour standards

Chris Baylis
by Chris Baylis
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PrimaryHealth & Wellbeing

In our school, like many others, there’s a small group of boys in lower-KS1 who have learning and behavioural difficulties stemming from medical and social issues.

Having observed their behavioural patterns within the classroom environment and when playing football in the playground, I realised that the school would benefit from tapping into a resource that could encompass both physical activity and PSHE. Which is when I approached Premier League Primary Stars.

The programme is based around four values – Be Ambitious, Be Inspiring, Be Connected and Be Fair – so I used the coloured certificates provided to indicate a task for each of the boys over the course of a week, based on one of these four elements.

For example, a yellow certificate meant one pupil had to aspire to ‘Be Fair’ throughout the week towards his peers and teachers. If he was successful, he received a yellow Premier League sticker on a chart that I had made for each of them.

Each week they would get a new colour and value, which they had to apply to all aspects of their work and play.

In the meantime, we would start each session by watching one of the resource videos that focus on themes such as communication, diversity, self-esteem and teamwork.

Celebrating achievements

Depending on the subject matter of the session, we would talk through how appropriate their behaviour needed to be throughout the day, which also reaffirmed what was expected of them in their allocated task for the week. As these children have a need for visual, kinaesthetic learning, they were reminded of their responsibilities with large laminated certificates which had their names and tasks clearly displayed.

If throughout the week they collected five stickers on their chart, I would issue them with appropriate coloured certificates in front of the whole class, and by celebrating their achievement publicly, it gave them all a much-needed boost of confidence and helped build up their self-esteem.

After a few weeks, we mixed up the tasks to ensure it was focused on both the classroom and the playground, sustaining the message about how we engage with our peers and constantly rewarding good behaviour.

The Premier League code

We also started using the words ‘Premier League’ as a code they had to use if they saw one of the others misbehaving, in the classroom or in the playground. Pretty soon, this small group of boys quickly became known as the ‘Premier League Club’ by their peers – which, of course, was another huge boost to their self-esteem and sense of belonging.

As team building has been a particular challenge with these boys, we would often take team building exercises from the resources out into the playground during our sessions.

These would start off well but they gradually and inevitably ended up in arguments.

Their lack of self-esteem, coupled with emotional and behavioural needs, meant that they often acted as individuals on the pitch – rarely passing the ball or acknowledging their team mates, rarely accepting defeat or taking a decision against them in a gracious manner. This frustration would invariably be transferred back into the classroom, where disruption would ensue.

Huge victory

I have, however, seen signs of improvement in their teamwork over time. One small act – a pupil helping a fellow player off the ground by offering their hand – can represent a huge victory for these boys, and gives us a real example of teamwork to build upon. With time, I hope we can transfer those positive signs back into the classroom environment.

The importance of teaching these boys in my care about basic values – respect, fair play, teamwork – should not be underestimated. Every day out on the playground, we see how pupils mimic the behaviour of their football idols. If we can reinforce those messages about the true value of sportsmanship with real-life, relatable examples, then we can support these boys in all their interactions with peers and teachers. The first step is to enact those values on the playground or pitch, then we can transfer it into the classroom.

Chris Baylis is a Specialist SEND Teaching Assistant at St Bernard’s RC Primary School, Manchester. With Premier League Primary Stars, teachers can use the inspiration and fun of sport to connect pupils’ learning to the world around them. The programme provides free, online and curriculum-linked teaching resources in PE, PSHE, maths and English for all primary school teachers and pupils in England and Wales. Find out more here.

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