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Eskdale School

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The school promotes upskilling courses for parents in a variety of sports, and supports the parents in being able to attend them.

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Aim/Focus: Community

  • To increase the involvement of our community in the physical activities of Eskdale School

This aim was then divided into three smaller ones:

  • to increase and utilise the skills of parents in physical activity
  • to increase community participation in physical activity
  • to sustain parental and community involvement.

Background

Eskdale School is a rural school of approximately 170 students ranging from years 0–8. We have keen and active students, but lacked community and family support. Getting enough coaches for sports teams was an ongoing issue, along with transportation and support at interschool events. We could always rely on certain families, but needed to widen this involvement and awaken the community.

No community club links were in place at the school and staff, students, and parents were having to contact clubs using their own initiative. The only time we saw anyone from a sports club was when we got a visit from a rugby club official, at an assembly several years ago, to talk to the students about playing rugby for the season. No other sports club made a visit to the school.

We needed to vastly improve our links to the community, its resources and clubs that our students were already involved with, or might be interested in becoming involved with. We hoped that this would lead to an increase in students participating in physical activity, the range of activities available, the number of families involved in the physical activities of our school, and the development of stronger links with the community.

Process undertaken

We decided to firstly survey all students, staff, and families about their thoughts on physical activity in relation to Eskdale School. We then analysed the results from our surveys for our next steps. We also reviewed our School and Community Physical Activity Project (SCPAP) action plan and school goal. Professional development was also planned and undertaken with the Active Schools Facilitator (ASF) from Sport Hawke’s Bay and the Physical Education (PE) Adviser from Massey University.

After close analysis of our parental surveys, we found that the common factors restricting parental involvement were lack of time, lack of transport, and perceived lack of skills. To overcome these restrictions, we made flexible times for sports practices, arranged carpooling, and also organised training and courses for parents. From our surveys, we also gathered data about parents’ strengths and developed a database. This currently has over 30 activities/sports listed with details of the Lead Teachers, parent contacts, local sport development officers/organisations, and community links/clubs. It is a very beneficial resource for our school.

Traditionally, we have had poor attendance at community events and meet-the-teacher evenings, so we decided to think creatively and start 2007 off with a combined Meet the Teacher/Twilight Activity. To begin with, we had one of our fathers, ex-Magpies coach Brendon Ratcliffe, talk about his experiences with rugby and life around the world. Then we had the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) provide a healthy tea and picnic for families. This was followed by activity time – each teacher had organised events with our ASF’s assistance (for example, ‘gumboot throw’ and ‘hit the target’) and the students were responsible for taking their family around to meet not only their own but every teacher (which is an important part of the rural ethos of our school), and take part in each physical activity.

This evening was hugely successful, with more than 100 students and families attending. We produced a manual for this evening which helps with sustainability and can be easily adapted for future events. At the end of the night, we asked families for feedback. They wrote their comments and suggestions on a big noticeboard. From this, we had parents offering to organise a Twilight Triathlon evening along similar lines for term 4. We are also using this as an opportunity for local community clubs and organisations to attend and promote their physical activity/sport.

Responsibilities

For this project to be successful, several people have taken on responsibilities for different aspects. While a large portion of the work has fallen on the Lead Teacher, because of the nature of our small supportive staff, jobs have been delegated and responsibilities shared. The Board of Trustees and PTA have held different responsibilities, as has the Principal and Senior Management Team. The students have also taken on different responsibilities: the older students are lunchtime activity leaders and the years 4 and 5 students are sports trolley and classroom activity monitors. Systems have been set up to ensure that if a person leaves, then this project will still be sustainable in our school.

Resources

We are lucky in Hawkes Bay to have fabulous resources and people available for support and guidance. Sport Hawke’s Bay has been invaluable, especially our ASF. We have also had support from Massey University and other government organisations. Eskdale School has a fantastic Board of Trustees who allocate a healthy budget for PE and sport each year. Without this support, we would not have been able to successfully participate in this project.

Outcomes

The upskilling of our students’ knowledge in physical activity has influenced and increased parental knowledge and involvement. Parents are now fully involved with coaching and managing sports teams, as well as organising lunchtime activities. The school promotes upskilling courses for parents in a variety of sports, and supports the parents in being able to attend them. When we have different sports organisations coming into our school (such as squash, volleyball, and golf), we also invite the parents along, to develop their sports knowledge and skills.

We have had a marked increase in parental support since being part of this project. It has also been the first year we have not needed to pay for buses for transportation to sporting events. Parents are keen and willing to attend, supervise, manage, and even coach our teams. Parents are organising a term 4 Twilight Triathlon event, which also coincides with the end of our involvement in SCPAP. It is already looking like being a fun and active night!

Parents are also more involved with fundraising efforts and grant applications for new sports equipment and adventure playground extensions. No longer do we have to beg and bribe parents to be involved with the school! We make sure our parents, coaches, and volunteers are celebrated in numerous ways: they are invited to assemblies, shared lunches, and morning teas; given gifts, cards, and petrol vouchers; and acknowledged in our newsletters.

We believe we have put several processes in place to sustain parental and community involvement at Eskdale School. We have information forms that parents fill in, along with a database that is updated regularly. Continual links and open lines of communication with our local community organisations are seen as an important part of our school, as well as the provision and promotion of positive role models. With physical activity being strongly valued at our school, this has fantastic benefits for all families, which also aids sustainability.

Reflection/Next steps

There is a strong sense of community at Eskdale School. This has been strengthened and increased since being in this project. We have also maintained good links with the media, who help promote and publicise different events at our school.

We have been incredibly lucky to have support from so many different places and people. This has helped make this project such a success. Being a small rural school, we feel that we have made amazing progress while being part of SCPAP. We have seen, first hand, the many and varied positive emotional and physical benefits for the students and their families.

The staff are happy and upskilled, the students are active, the parents are involved and their skills are being utilised, and we have stronger and sustainable links with our community. You can’t ask for much more than that!


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