Over 140 Principals and Health & Physical Education (HPE) lead teachers came together at Claudelands Events Centre in Hamilton to challenge the traditional structures of sport and physical education in the region’s primary schools and kura, and explore what a holistic approach to physical education would look like.
In collaboration with the Waikato Principals’ Association (WPA), and with support from regional partners Waikato DHB, Ministry of Education and Sport NZ, the Beyond Sport conference marked an integral day in the history of Sport Waikato and the role of the Regional Sports Trust as a partner in supporting schools and kura to deliver quality physical activity and play experiences for all tamariki.
The day was opened by Sport Waikato CEO Matthew Cooper who said that embedding a love of movement at a young age is critical to future generation’s health.
“Primary schools can contribute hugely to this through the environment they can provide in this important part of a child’s life journey. The Health and PE curriculum in particular has great power that can be harnessed better for wellbeing,” Cooper said.
The conference brought together speakers from around the north island, including Julie Morrison from Sport NZ, Dame Karen Poutasi from Waikato District Health Board, and Dr Lucy Hone from the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience who delivered a powerful presentation on the science and practice of wellbeing in education.
“Wellbeing is caught in every interaction you have during every minute of your day, in every relationship you build, in every conversation that you have,” said Dr Hone.
Marcus Freke, Principal Endeavour School, President of Waikato Principals Association said the day was a great example of two motivated organisations working together to provide a great professional learning opportunity for school leaders.
“The thinking and provocations shared on the day made a positive impact on the participants. There seems to be a genuine desire to consider a different approach to Health & Physical Education to achieve better outcomes for tamariki/rangatahi from both a WPA and Sport Waikato perspective. We look forward to continuing the partnership,” Freke said.
The day also hosted a number of providers that schools could connect with, from Hamilton City Council to Bikes in Schools, playground providers, Life Education Trust and many others.
With the background and rationale behind a shift in gear for Sport Waikato outlined through local and national evidence, it was time to dig into some thought provoking questions from Associate Dean Academic Kirsten Petrie from Te Wānanga Toi Tangata - Division of Education.
Petrie challenged the audience with her talk on what children actually learn from the traditionally focused physical education programmes in schools.
“The NZ curriculum doesn’t actually name any sports. Yet they remain the focus for many programmes. We plan for the activity and not for learning, and without differentiation in response to learners needs. You don’t give your new entrant children the same books as Year 6s, or even the same books to all the tamariki in the same class, but often we persist in providing the same PE programme across the whole school. A ‘learning’ programme like that is not acceptable in any other curriculum area, so why are we still doing it in HPE?,” Petrie said.
Alongside Richard Crawford, Principal of Fairfield College and Lead Principal of Te Pae Here Kaahui Ako, Manager for Sport Waikato’s Taakaro Ora initiative Claire Rusk shared insights to a localised pilot which reflects a co-design approach in changing the way health and physical education is considered within Te Pae Here Kaahui Ako (a Community of Learning which covers a large area of North-East Hamilton) and why this learning area should be considered a key tool in supporting the wellbeing of tamariki.
Following this, guest speakers Principal Karen Wellington and Deputy Principal Shea Coxon from Upper Hutt shared their own unique journey of change within Te Kura o Hau Karetu as they too have navigated a shift to support and enhance the wellbeing of tamariki and connection between school and community.
Hamilton East School teacher Sarah Rasmussen said the speakers were excellent and were well aligned with the purpose of the day. She said it was also good to catch up with and meet new vendors who showcased their services.
“We are looking forward to reflecting on our delivery of the HPE curriculum at Hamilton East School and making a plan to move forward to provide quality experiences through authentic contexts,” Rasmussen explained.
Dr Lucy Hone pulled the day together perfectly, emphasising the importance of relationships and bringing the forum back to the behaviours we can control which can contribute to an overall sense of wellbeing.
Through thought provoking questions, evidence and insights, and powerful stories of change, school leaders left this forum with a broader understanding of how physical education contributes to wellbeing, and some small changes they could make within their own settings.
With representation from school leaders across all districts within the Waikato region, this event was a celebration of a new commitment and journey between Sport Waikato and the Kaiako within the region – providing a great opportunity to bring Sport Waikato's recent transformation to life.
During and post the event, there have been many comments regarding a need for this to be an annual event that builds each year on the collaborative work Sport Waikato will be undertaking alongside these schools.

Beyond Sport conference – a true unpacking of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum

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