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Views Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA)

Primary schools ignore the Government’s call for investment in play and sport

Following in my parents’

footsteps and teaching overseas This month, VSO Volunteer Helen Ward tells about her experiences teaching in Ghana in 2011. Both of my parents volunteered with VSO in the seventies. My dad first

volunteered in Nigeria in 1974. He taught cartography for two years and returned home to marry my mum in 1976. After my parents married, they moved to Banjul, Gambia’s capital city, where my dad managed the programme office but on a voluntary basis (it was a very small office). My mum was also a VSO volunteer. I have grown-up hearing about my parents’ adventures and always knew I

wanted to volunteer with VSO myself. This ambition became a reality in 2011, when I travelled to Ghana for a two year VSO placement. I was based in the remote northern area of the country known as the Upper East Region.

Daily life in Ghana My official title was Teacher Support Officer. My work focussed on what Ghanaians call `Basic School Education’.

I guess we would call it the equivalent

of primary and lower secondary level, but children in basic school could be of any age. You can be 21 years old and still be in primary school. Daily life in Ghana was just that...daily life. I would get up and have breakfast, usually porridge or toast. I lived in a small town called Bolgatanga, which had plenty of markets and shops for buying basics like bread, powdered milk, tinned fish and fresh fruit and vegetables. The heat is also hard to deal with and you have to really slow down and do everything at a much more leisurely pace. A typical day involved a twenty minute motorbike ride to the office across

some dusty red roads. I would often visit schools to deliver in-service training to teachers. I am particularly proud of a series of ‘inclusive classroom practice’ workshops that I planned and delivered with another VSO volunteer. We carried out three workshops over nine months. The teachers had the opportunity to plan their own training session and practice delivering it within a safe, supportive environment. Participants included both Government employed Education Officers, and School Teachers who went on to deliver training to their colleagues. The workshops were really effective and we received some great positive

feedback from the participants. One Teacher, called George, commented: “I never realised that children thought differently from adults. I just

believed they were being stubborn or slow children. After what you have explained, I will be sure to show patience to the children in my class.”

Returning home I am now back teaching in the UK. I currently have a ‘mixed reception’ and ‘year one’ class (aged four -six years old). They are lovely and I’m very happy. I love telling the children all about how children's lives in Ghana are very different to theirs. In fact, on World Book Day, I donned my best Ghanaian dress and went as a character called Handa from a book called ‘Handa's Surprise!’ My advice to anybody considering volunteering would be - do it! You’ll

learn so much about yourself as a person and it will enhance your career. You will gain much more from it than I could ever articulate on paper. For me, it has undoubtedly been the best two years of my life and if I could go back and do it all over again I would and I wouldn't change a thing!

uVSO is currently recruiting volunteer teachers. u020 8780 7500

April 2015

This month, Caroline Wright, director of BESA talks us through BESA’s latest research into expenditure on, and the use of play equipment in schools. It was surprising to find that

despite the Government’s £150 million a year PE and sport premium funding, our research shows that 38 per cent of primary schools feel they have a poor provision of play equipment. Our annual ‘Play Equipment and Resourcing’ research surveyed 393 English schools (207 maintained, 186 Academy), about their investment in and use of play equipment and the view was that this provision is unlikely to change. Only 24 per cent of the surveyed schools stated that there would

be a spending prioritisation on play equipment this year and less than a third (29 per cent) of schools would be looking to increase their investment in this area over the next two to five years. 39 per cent of primary schools indicate no spending on indoor or outdoor play equipment. The result is that, on average schools are looking at a 1.4 per cent decline in spending on play equipment in 2015 compared with the previous year. So why are we seeing this reduction, when the Government is

investing in sport in schools? The research shows that is it partly due to the future funding

uncertainty, with 42 per cent of schools attributing this to the forthcoming election. Add to this the increasing pressure on schools to raise standards in the core subjects, and it appears schools are placing play equipment well down their spending list. In her September 2014 speech on the PE and Sport Premium,

education secretary, Nicky Morgan, said she wanted to create a world-class education system. While many of the required skills such as literacy and numeracy can be taught in the classroom, other vital skills such as confidence, discipline, and determination can be learned through playing sport. At BESA, we therefore feel that while we recognise the pressure

on schools to raise standards in the core subjects, they must try to maintain their investment in curriculum areas such as physical education, which certainly in the early years, requires well-designed play equipment. At the recent Education Show in Birmingham, it was refreshing to

see many of the highest quality play equipment providers showcasing their products. The level of thought that goes into the design to ensure they are robust, safe and support learning, is outstanding. For a list of all suppliers who are BESA members and therefore

adhere to our code of best practice business, please visit

uFor information from BESA contact: uCaroline Wright u020 7537 4997 7

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