Let me tell you a story about abdication...

Imagine building a house.  You've come into some money to invest.  It’s not your money, but you’ve been given it and told to invest it wisely.

You decide you want to build a house.  You’re not really sure what type of house, but you know you want a house.  You’re not experienced in building houses, so you decide to call the experts and get their advice.

You speak to a lot of building companies.  They show you their portfolio and some references from previous clients.  They tell you what they can do and how well they can do it. 

They draw a plan – You think you should have an architect for this, but they convince you it’s an additional cost you don’t need to spend.  They’ve been doing this for years – Trust them!  4 Bed house, two bathrooms, nice kitchen, in budget. 

Finally, after shopping around (this is a big investment, you’re not going to rush it) you settle on one company.  You like the main man.  He knows his stuff.  You hire him.

First day, they send your builder.  He looks like a builder, and he works for a building company.  He looks young.  He must be qualified and experienced.  The building company wouldn’t have sent him otherwise.

You decide to not look at the house until its built.  You can trust the building company, they’re professionals after all.

6 months later you see the boss of the building company in Tesco.  He tells you the project is on track.  He’s been on site and checked on the work the young builder has been doing.  It’s really good.  You’ve no need to worry – after all, this guy is a professional builder.

Finally, you get the call you’ve been waiting for.  Your house is ready.  Excited, you jump in your car and drive to your new home.  The driveway hasn’t been finished.  Not to worry, you think, it’s probably the last job to do.

You open the front door and the kitchen is green.  You wanted white.  The taps are wrong.  The window is in the wrong position.  Upstairs, there are only 3 bedrooms, not the 4 you wanted. 

Suddenly never viewing the building process seems a very bad idea.  This isn’t what you wanted.  This isn’t what the builder promised they would deliver.  Think of the money you’ve wasted.  The only saving grace is that it wasn’t your money in the first place.

Ok, so this is a far-fetched tail.  Nobody would actually totally abdicate the building of their house to someone they don’t know.  They just wouldn’t.  If nothing else, it’s just too much money to risk.

So, let’s talk PE.  Let’s change the above scenario to PE in primary schools.

You want to improve PE.  You’re not really sure how, but you want to improve it and you’ve got some money to spend.  You call the experts.  These people run coaching companies, they work in primary schools, they must be experts.

The coaching companies come to see you.  They tell you all the amazing things they can do for you.  They bring brochures with testimonials and stories of greatness.  They even deliver a taster session that the children love.  Kids do love a game of dodgeball after all.

They tell you what they’re going to teach.  Really someone with curriculum mapping knowledge and an insight into the expectations of the school should do this, but why would you want to waste other people’s time? They can do it for you and it looks good on paper – The children will love it.

You pick your coaching company.  It’s expensive, but you’ve got the money to spend.  This guy is going to revolutionise PE in your school. 

On the first day, the coach that has sold you your dream turns up with another coach.  We’ll call the other coach Joe.  Joe is 20, plays football at weekends and loves working with kids.

Before long, Joe is the only person coming to your school.

You start to notice that the person you actually hired isn’t around much anymore.  You ring him, you need a chat.

He comes in.  He tells you Joe is doing a great job.  He’s observed Joe 4 times so far and they were all outstanding lessons.  He also gives you some progress data.  He must be telling the truth, why would he lie? 

Finally, you get some release time.  You decide to pop in on Joe’s lesson.  You walk into the hall.  15 v 15 Dodgeball.  Kids are having a ball.  Surely this isn’t the same kind of lesson that the coaching company boss thinks is outstanding?! You have questions.

  • What’s the learning objective?
  • What skills are being developed?
  • How are children being stretched?
  • How does this lesson fit into our curriculum expectations?
  • What assessment is taking place?

You ask Joe.  Joe doesn’t know.  Joe is a Level 1 Football Coach.

This story may be exaggerated for the benefit of this blog.  But there are elements from it that resonate through an alarming number of schools.  In this last week, I have visited two schools where BOTH PE Subject Leaders have NOT TAUGHT OR OBSERVED a single PE lesson in the last 2 years. 


Because they have outsourced their PE Curriculum to coaching companies.  The brutal, worrying fact is that responsibility for PE in those schools has been abdicated.

So, what’s the difference between schools that use Coaching Companies to improve the quality of teaching, knowledge and confidence of staff and the whole provision of physical education, sport and activity in schools and those that simply outsource the subject? 

It’s a case of delegation V abdication.

Why do we delegate? Usually to ensure that someone who is capable of completing the task can do so instead of us – Saves us time, effort and allows us to focus on other things. 

To delegate effectively, we need to ensure that the person being delegated to can deliver the expectations of the task to the standards we demand.  They have to be able to deliver on our expectations and targets.

In the current educational climate, where workload is at a record high, the need to delegate has been increased.  More schools need to look at the best way to deliver on their targets and expectations whilst also managing the key area of school budgets.

So what is abdication? Abdication, like delegation, involves allocating duties and responsibilities to a team - but without the measuring and managing part.

No checking.  No ensuring on target to meet agreed objectives.  No performance Indicators, No quality assurance.

Just blind faith.

Big difference.

Abdication is abandonment of our duties and our responsibilities to our staff, our children and our parents.

To effectively delegate some responsibility in PE, whether that be to teachers or coaching companies to deliver an outstanding teaching and learning environment for our children, the following 5 key components apply.

  1. A VISION STATEMENT - Success begins with a written vision for the subject, and everyone who has a vested interest in the subject needs to know what it is (Senior Leaders, Teachers, Parents, Governors, External Coaches). Without a vision, individuals are left to act on their own assumptions and presumptions - which likely will lead them toward their own visions. Clear vision statements provide constant guidance by enabling our team members to answer the question: “Is the action I am about to take moving us toward or away from from the school vision?”
  2. GOALS - Our vision is the big picture we are trying to accomplish, goals are the intermediate milestones that provide feedback along the way.  Goals should be monitored throughout the academic year and provide the basis for changing and amending our plans to ensure we achieve our vision.
  3. A CULTURE STATEMENT - A culture statement sets out clearly the schools values. It defines what we stand for and, equally importantly, what we won’t stand for. It sets out our expectations for behavioural standards from pupils and delivery standards from teachers/coaches.
  4. TRAINING - Training teaches processes to team members. It tells them “how we expect things to be done around here.”  All staff should be trained to deliver PE to the standard expected by the school.  We should ensure that external coaches are developing teaching staff to the standards expected by the school – Not the standards expected by the coaching company.
  5. KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS (KPI’S) - What does success look like? How do we know that coaches are delivering on the expectations that the school has set them? Subject Leaders need to ensure that performance is monitored to ensure accountability for success and failure.  Not having clear, documented expectations gives a grey area around what is success and what is failure.  Tracking KPI’s such as staff knowledge, pupil participation, progress, confidence, character development and more will ensure all stakeholders are aware of the progress being made.

It’s not too late to fix it.  If you think you may have abdicated your subject, get in touch.  We can help get you back in control and get you back building a PE provision you can be proud of.


Enter your details