2 things you must do as a School to help children develop leadership skills

I guess the first question to ask yourself is “does my school have sports leaders?”  I would hazard a guess at the majority of schools having sports leaders.  Then comes the biggest question, “do the sports leaders have an active role in the school?”  The instant reaction from a lot of schools is “yes”, but when we look deeper into the role they play, is it often enough, and is what they are doing improving their leadership skills.

The value of having active sports leaders is huge, not only for the leaders but also the school.  The leaders will grow in confidence and develop personal skills that will be so valuable to them during their lives.  The school will have role models that the younger children look up to and aspire to be like.  It is a win, win for schools but, the leaders HAVE to be able to deliver within a framework for it to be effective, as well as be fully trained to know what is expected of them.  Far too often have I witnessed and even been a part of the most amazing leadership training, but then it falls down as the leaders don’t have anything to get their teeth stuck into and deliver on a regular basis and the enthusiasm and motivation soon fade away.

So what can your school do to help children develop leadership skills?

  • Give the children the chance to be leaders during lessons

At a very basic level, get the children to lead activities during the lesson.  In a PE context this can be as simple as leading a warm up for a small group of children, or being the leader in a pair when devising a gymnastics routine.  Now of course, this relates back to an earlier point made about leading within a framework.  Let’s look at the warm-up, in a scheme of work of say 6 lessons, the teacher or sports coach would lead the first warm-up and lesson, but within this, still ask questions to the children about different movements and why they are doing a warm-up.  This will give them a deeper understanding of warm-ups.  Week 2 could then challenge the group to, with a partner, lead their own warm-up, choosing movements from the week before.  They have to choose 2 each and perform for 1 minute, then they must tell their partner a fact about why warm-ups are important, or why they are moving that particular part of the body.

Hopefully, you can see how the pupil-led learning has now begun in the simplest of ways.  For younger children, it might be enough for them to choose an animal to move like but asking them what they notice about their body.  For older children, they might be challenged to be more specific about what body part is moving and why it is crucial we warm up.  This can then form the basis of further developing leadership skills within lessons.  At the highest level, this could be in a team environment where the children play a match, they then evaluate their performance and devise some skill practices to then hopefully improve performance when the start the match again.  This is quite high-level stuff and it is important that the children are allocated roles within this.  1 child might be the ‘manager’ – who decides on the areas they would like to improve, another the ‘coach’ – who’s job is to decide on the skill practice, another might be in charge of equipment and getting this ready for the coach and manager.  Another, the referee, and so.  By doing this, you are providing that framework, without being prescriptive.  To further help, you could give the children the choice of practices that will focus on certain skills.

If we relate this to what we often see at lunchtimes, children are made sports leaders, but they are not given ideas or a framework to lead sessions in.  This then leads to difficulties in coming up with new ideas, and as aforementioned enthusiasm begins to fade.

  • A framework for leaders to lead

The expectation of children to lead sessions at break and lunch times is then far more realistic, children have developed the social and personal skills to cope and excel at delivering.  However, the importance of doing this within a framework is still relevant.  You should have a bank of resources and equipment for the children to access, moreover, it is important to emphasise simplicity so that the sessions and games delivered are sustainable.

Imagine an active lunchtime where the children sports leaders are running games and sessions for the other children at the school.  How effective could this be?  An imagine further that the lunchtime supervisors are fully trained and supportive, this would be a dream wouldn’t it?

From a senior leadership team perspective

When you think of what leadership means in your school you think of several things. You want your leaders to bring the staff together, to work towards one common goal. The leader should keep everyone motivated. They should also be able to avoid and avert conflict in the group. Ultimately they should also succeed in their task within a given time frame.

This is exactly the same your classroom or even out on the playground. Leadership skills are developed in classrooms across the world because they use the soft skills that help children to develop and learn but with but which are not part of the Government’s National Curriculum. If you are a successful leader you can communicate your ideas clearly. You can listen to others and understand exactly what they are saying, subtext and all. You can negotiate with others to agree actions and you can plan and carry out those plans.

There maybe some children in your class who you would think would make natural leaders. Great, and you are lucky to have an able group. However, you wouldn’t send Messi to a youth training camp to learn how to play football so, why would you put a natural skilled leader in charge of group work planned to teach leadership skills? Grouping is key. In a mixed ability group as a worker and not a leader they may well take over. If you put all the natural leaders and verbally confident children together in a group they will need to develop their skills further in order to keep the others under control! Put the quieter, less confident group together with clear simple tasks to complete and you will see leaders emerge who may well have been overshadowed if in another grouping.

Confident speakers will learn to listen and natural listeners will find their voice.

For further information about developing leaders, please visit our website and use our free online leadership course.

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