With the February half term marking the end of this season's BEK Development sessions, we sat down with Sofina Begum — Head of Year 12 at Harris Academy Tottenham — for her reflections on the programme.
Could you tell us about your role at the School?
Sofina Begum (SB): This is my sixth year at Harris Academy Tottenham. I started off as an English teacher and then was the subject lead for Media before becoming Head of Year. I have continued down the pastoral route for the last couple of years and am currently Head of Year 12.
What has it been like to teach during a pandemic?
SB: [Smiles] Challenging is a good word for it! Teaching online is totally different to being there in the classroom. You could only really judge students' engagement by what they wrote in the chatbox - or if they were willing to come off mute and say something - which was very difficult. Through a lot of hard work, we managed to come up with strategies for student engagement and participation which in turn kept attendance levels high, but If I'm honest, I think the students suffered. They missed the school environment and wanted to be in the classroom. However, it was a huge learning experience for all of us. One I hope we'll never have to go through again!
What impact has the pandemic had on students?
SB: There are real issues with confidence for some. The disruption to the school routine has had a knock-on effect on things as diverse as writing skills to sleep patterns. There are entire year groups who have not had the experience of sitting formal exams, which is really tough on them as so much is gained through going through the formalities of external assessments. Year 12 have just done their mocks, so it will be interesting to see if they applied the models Behind Every Kick helped them develop for dealing with pressure.
Why did Harris Academy Tottenham decide to implement the BEK Development programme?
SB: Last year, while we were restricted to teaching online, our year 11 PE students joined the programme. They were really positive about it, so we decided to offer it to some of our year 12s this year. We have students studying with us who are part of the Kinetic Foundation for aspiring footballers. As well as playing sport, I saw it as a fantastic opportunity for our students to collaborate with Behind Every Kick to create other opportunities in their lives that work on the basis of sport as a concept. That connection you have with them through their love of sport allows you to do this. The other students we asked to join the programme were those I thought would benefit from a little boost in their confidence and communication. The more informal environment of the BEK sessions away from a classroom enables the students a bit of freedom to expresses themselves in a different way, share their ideas and explore topics that are related to their love of sport.
Have you seen any changes in the students attending the programme?
SB: Absolutely. Some of the quieter ones have definitely come out of their shells. It's also helped foster a really positive community spirit between the students also. It is great to see them talking about the sessions and putting what they have learnt in practice around the sixth form. The fact that the sessions often include physical activities based around sport and a sense of competition is something they love. But it's definitely friendly competition and I've had several of the students tell me BEK creates an environment they feel very relaxed and safe in which is why they love going to the sessions.
Last question from us — what would you say to other schools considering joining the Behind Every Kick programme?
SB: Definitely get involved. The genuine care and commitment you show to young people is something BEK can feel really proud of. The skills you've helped our students develop are vital for any young adult to have. BEK is helping them become really great citizens of the world. It's clear the charity's focus is supporting these individual young people to make a positive impact and enjoy their lives after they leave the school setting. I'd also say to fellow teachers, where time is so precious, bringing Behind Every Kick into your school won't feel like an additional responsibility. Communication and timetabling with BEK has always been easy, and they are always consistent with our young people. It's a great programme.