Rebecca Ashton

Enhance Training Day

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The final testing as part of the Enhance, our Active Armchairs research project, is complete and I’ve received first drafts and many questionnaires and reports from various people. We are now awaiting the final results and I will also be writing a full project report, it is an exciting time for me as I can’t wait to share all the positive things that have come from it! 

Over half term the Active Armchairs Facilitators and I met for a training day. This is probably the first time that all facilitators have been in the same room at the same time. This unprecedented training day was exciting for all of us, but it also sent a clear message… your Active Armchairs sessions are doing fantastic things. A confidence boost like this is always good and we had a whole day to explore the many positives, how we can replicate them and what we can do to improve further. 

Bring on the Continued Professional Development (CPD) that the TRS Teachers crave! 

I asked some of the teachers to comment on the day…

“I thoroughly enjoyed the Enhance training session. I was looking forward to hearing the results. As a facilitator I know and can see the benefits in each one of my classes, but to get the scientific proof to back this, is fantastic! The CPD session allowed us all to be caught up and expand our knowledge further to enable us to really help the participants in each one. I learnt a lot of new ideas and ways to make my Active Armchairs sessions even better, for both myself and participants to enjoy!” Georgie, Owner of TRS South Kent, Level Three TRS Teacher and Level Two Active Armchairs Facilitator

“I think the training was important as it was an opportunity for the teachers to come together and talk about the Active Armchairs sessions and how they will implement the result of Enhance in their classes. It was great to have evidence to back up what we actually already knew, that Active Armchairs is good for us! I thought the confidence increase was really interesting and it was fascinating to hear about how this can affect our ability to do something when we previously thought that we couldn’t. I think the results will influence my choreography as I will now think about what impact I what the moment to have and how this can be adapted and achieved.” Georgia Smith, Level Three TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator

“I was really interested to understand what kind of tests was carried out and the results of them. I was extremely interested in the results about the hand grip. Understanding that it wasn’t dance that helped improve movement. but the dance increased wellbeing and self belief. Aiding them to push further and accomplish more movement. 
I really enjoyed the training and understanding how psychological it can be in boosting your mood and well being.” Hayley, Level Two TRS Teacher and Level One Active Armchairs Facilitator
 
“Being a part of, and subsequently hearing the results from the Enhance Project will play an integral part to how I approach the planning and delivery of my Active Armchairs classes. I was elated to hear about the importance of instilling confidence to participants during classes and look forward to ensuring this is a given going forward.” Steph, Facilitator for the Enhance Project, Level Three TRS Teacher and Level Two Active Armchairs Facilitator
I began the day by telling the facilitators all about the project, although they all knew some of what was going on, it was great to share everything from the question we asked (above) to the logistics of the day to day. We then did lots of exercises, brain break games (left), a Q and A session with facilitators and, of course, some choreography, to explore the various outcomes and experiences from all aspects of the project. 
 
The full results will be published soon along with a project report in January, but for now we can share some of the conclusions we drew during the Enhance Training. 
 
We talked a lot about how Active Armchairs affects the various people involved and this includes care home staff and family members. We looked at their perspectives and drew conclusions from the questionnaires and feedback we’d received throughout. One comment particularly stood out because it mentioned lots of the things we consider for our sessions such as CHOICE.

“Enabling our residents to have varied meaningful activities is a must. Our activities coordinator is really motivated and arranges a wide range of activities. As with any activity only certain residents will participate depending on their ability, physically and whether they are actually interested and willing to take part in specific activities.” Pat Rossouw, Home Manager at Barton Court

We talked about how Active Armchairs is a meaningful activity, outlined in NICE Quality Statement 1: Participation in Meaningful Activity and we thought of lots of ways we support this fact as well as how we can develop further.
 
The biggest thing to come from the results so far… in brief, and as alluded to by the facilitators above, increased confidence led to improved hand grip in the non dominant hand. This is something we are all extremely pleased with because, with the group of people we work with, physical maintenance at the most is expected, we made an improvement and, not only that, the improvements come from all the things we do that surround the physical activity, not just the physical activity itself. This is very affirming. 
 
Towards the end of the day we created a list of the main things Active Armchairs is adding to the lives of our participants. The findings behind this list will all be in the project report. 
 
  • Meaningful Activity
  • Confidence
  • Motivation
  • Inclusion
  • Maintenance
  • Positive Relationships
  • Variety
  • Physical Maintenance / Development

All the facilitators, including myself, left with a practical, personal to do list, of the things we wanted to do next for our classes. These were things like set myself a mini challenge (so that we would choreograph in a new way), learn more participant names (because sometimes participants can’t tell us themselves), research meaningful activity further and check the care homes have our poster on their notice board (this helps participants/residents know when we’re coming, gives them opportunity to get excited and integrates us into care home life).
 
The main aim of the day was for it to be useful and inspiring and it really was. It was also very confidence boosting for everyone and it really was very therapeutic! The dance teachers did a great job and I can’t wait to see what happens next. 

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Welly Walk, Welly Dance

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Children love a welly walk. They love to be outside and they love to explore. Why not bring the welly walk into the dance class and extend the fun! Some things to try for schools, pre-schools, nurseries and when at home.

What is a Welly Walk?

A welly walk is basically that, a walk in wellies. Along the walk the children are encouraged to collect things they see. At this time of year that could be leaves, acorns, chestnut cases and other things that have fallen from trees. It often involves some puddle jumping and could include some leaf kicking.

 

Into Dance…

There are lots of opportunities for movement play whilst on the welly walk, but I’ve put together some ideas for in a dance class, continuing the fun and extending the learning. These things can be done with parents at home or with teachers at school.

Collections

Collect things from the welly walk and bring them into the dance class as inspiration or props. A leaf is great for a cool down. Ask children to sit or lay down comfortably, leaf in hand. With calming music on, they can copy you or interpret your direction in their way. You could begin with stroking the arms, don’t forget the elbows. You could do a tickley arm pit or chin. You can twirl the leaf between the fingers. It can be balanced on different body parts. There are lots of things that can be done during cool down.

Link to English

Use the welly walk to encourage the use of different types of descriptive words (float, swish, splash, slide) then choreograph a dance using the words. This is an easy way to help children be more creative with the types of movements they do. For example, if you ask a child to pretend to be a falling leaf it’s likely that they will reach up and then wiggle down to the ground. If you ask them whilst also reminding them of some of the words they’ve thought of, their movements will be very different. They might begin high up, swaying, twitchy, swoop and then get lower as they float, twist, fly and land softly. If you don’t have real leaves, conkers and twigs etc. for this you can get craft leaves that work well throughout the year!

Roots Game

Whilst on a welly walk, roots are great for inspiring movement, especially big gnarly ones that stick up out of the ground. When back inside you can play the roots game and remember what you did. Set up some bases around the space and at each base the task is different. Tasks could be root jumping (like a ski jump over something), root balancing (find something to balance on in a certain position or balance whilst walking along it), root hopping (a row of roots that need to be hopped or hurdled over) etc. This is circuits for dance and with a theme!

Gumboot Dance

Quite a specialist area, we have dance teachers who are trained to deliver authentic classes, but you could take some aspects of this African dance style into the dance class. Put wellies on and dance in them. Use the wellies to inspire stamping, clapping and welly slapping rhythms!

Acorn, leaf, muddy puddle game.

Get some pictures of these things and/or use your voice to announce each thing. Start slowly. Ask the children to improvise around each item, use descriptive words. See my blog about improvisation for more about this. Once they have some movement material for each one, speed up your announcements. A slow breeze to start with then speeding up so they are moving between each one quickly, switching movements fast and getting excited as they go. This idea could be used as a warm up or for a game anytime in the lesson.

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Dance Ideas for PSHE

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As a subject, the content, aims and reasons for PSHE change often. It has changed names multiple times since I was at school and most schools have different approaches to it. However, at it’s core, PSHE in primary schools, generally always covers similar values and subjects.  

PSHE stands for Personal, Social and Health Education. Sometimes it is taught to a whole class in a normal setting or in circle time, sometimes it is taught it small groups. It is also taught all of the time in terms of personal development, values and general knowledge. This means it is an excellent subject for a cross-curricular dance class. Dance also teaches many of the life skills found in PSHE without the teacher having to focus on a particular aspect. For example, team work and friendships are seen in all dance classes.

In this blog I’m going to share a few dance ideas for just a few of the subjects covered by PSHE. These could be put towards a dance class or used as stand alone fun.

Friendship

Dance About You – Put children into partners. Start with someone they know well, you can repeat the task with someone they don’t know at another time. Put a short piece of music on (about 2 minutes, Come on Everybody or Blue Suede Shoes are good) and let the children ask each other questions until they find out a new thing (3 things if able) about each other. Now they work alone for a few minutes to make up a movement or sequence about the new fact(s) they’ve learnt. Share the moves with partners and then the whole class. All the movements or sequences could be strung together and performed by the whole class as a team and this would be nice at the start of the year with a new class or if more togetherness or team building is needed within a class.

Teamwork

The Spider Web – Everyone holds onto the giant elastic in a circle. Teacher says a name and that person moves across the circle. This repeats with dancers going over and under the elastic in different ways until it is a big web. Now they have to undo the web! This is a dance class though so everything needs to be done with an interesting way of moving.

The Mexican Wave – you don’t just have to do this the traditional way, other movements can be performed in a similar way and in dance we call this is cannon.

Country Dancing – As a whole dance style, country dancing is great for teamwork. A do-si-do (moving back to back around your partner) is a well known example. A Grand Chain (Holding hands) or Weave The Ring (Not holding hands) are excellent whole class team work based country dance elements that could be used in a dance or as an exercise. All stand in a circle face your partner next to you, holding right hand. Move past your partner and towards the next person and hold left hands. Keep passing holding right then left hands as you go.

Trust

There are a lot of dance and drama trust exercises such as trust falls and trust walks and they are well documented. The following idea is just for dance though and it is also great for teamwork.

Trust Motif Development – teach a simple motif or allow the dancers to choreograph one. It must all be standing up. Once they’ve learnt the motif they have to partner up and choose a prop. Things that work well are solid, about half a metre in length and are not heavy. For example, scarves or giant pipe cleaners. To simplify, the teacher can give everyone the same prop. The partners hold the prop between them and have to perform the motif again, but with the prop connecting them. The motif might develop in various ways, it might be slowed down or one person might use the opposite side of the body, for example. To make things more exciting, the partners could unknowingly choose how to hold the prop. They choose from the options hand or foot, face front or face back and right or left. Then, once the teacher has explained, they hold the prop between them. For example, hand, facing each other, left hands.

Confidence and Honesty

Telling the truth is often about having self confidence and that’s why I’ve put these two together. It’s also about how truth and lies feel to other people. It is quite a concept to grasp and from around Year 2 as it becomes more complicated than just, telling the truth is the right thing to do. You could use a story to support learning around telling the truth and use a cross-curricular approach in the dance class. The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig or, of course, the very famous, Pinnochio might be helpful

Peer feedback is good way to encourage positive, helpful, constructive truth telling. Ask for Nice and Helpful feedback, You did this and now you could try…

To encourage confidence in dance class I try to find an opportunity for every young dance to do a movement or shape on their own near the start of class. This could be during the register or part of name and shape. It’s important thay there is a ‘way out’ if they don’t know what to do. This could be by copying someone else’s idea or the teacher using whatever position they’re standing in as their shape or a move such as a shoulder shrug or head shake if they have indicated they don’t know what to do in this way. Either way, they have taken part and got through it.

Respect and Anti Bullying

Your Daily Dance has lists of music by theme, including one for songs about bullying. Appropriate versions would need to be sought for many of the song, but the list is a very useful starting point.  https://www.yourdailydance.com/songs-about-bullying/

Greetings Warm Up with a difference – Everyone walks around the space and, when teacher calls a number or colour, or holds up a sign or makes an instrument noise (there are lots of options!), they perform an action. Here are some examples.

– High five the nearest person
– Hand shake with the nearest person
– Fold arms and stop in front of the nearest person then turn away
– Stand in front of the nearest person with your arms and legs out stretched (open and vulnerable)
– Loop arms, link together

Afterwards, talk about how the actions made you feel. Progress this further in other lessons by asking the dancers for their own ideas, perhaps focusing on things that make them happy or things they think will make others happy.

 

I’ve just scratched the surface of how dance and pshe go hand in hand. Other aspects such as Golden Rules, worry and internet safety could all be explored using a cross-curricular approach and the things I have covered could be part of a lesson or scheme of work. As always with our work in Educating Dance, the options are endless!

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Dance Ideas for New Friends

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This month we’re focusing on friendship, new things and social inclusion so I had a conversation with the TRS Teachers about their ideas. Dance is a fantastic medium for making friends and learning about social interactions. 

It’s September and the schools are back, the children in our classes are meeting new people in their new classes and it’s a new school year, but we’ve talked about all classes for this blog, including Active Armchairs, because the social aspects of dance are present everywhere!

The TRS Teachers have shared lots of ideas for dancing around these themes below. I’ll also be writing a blog post about PSHE towards the end of the month and this will relate as well.
 

Meet and Greet Ideas…

Rebecca
Name and shape is a fantastic introduction game. It’s an old favourite that I first played when volunteering at Magpie Dance Company ten years ago! It works with any age, any ability and pretty much any theme! Its great for us dance teachers to learn names and to give all participants a chance to be in the spotlight if they want to.
 

How to play:
Everyone stands in a circle. Teacher explains that we are going to take it in turns to say our name and make a shape or do a little movement. Then everyone will copy the shape or movement and say the name back. As you go around each person can pass the turn onto the next person by gesturing that it is their go.
 
 
Georgia
“I like doing ‘Meet and Move’ we have selected movements and then travel around the space, when the teach shouts meet you find a friend (A different partner each time) and do the movement together and then continue. I have done this as part of a warm up where when we meet we circle a different body part starting from our head and then working towards our toes! By the end you will have danced with around 6 different people! for younger ones to make this clearer it can be when the music stops that you ‘meet’ with a friend to do the moments.”
 

Social Inclusion, how we can encourage it…

Steph
“I’ve been using the theme of holidays recently in Active Armchairs which has lead to some brilliant conversations and connections between participants. We have been sharing memories of places we have lived or visited, which has connected many people in conversation as they had visited the same place! It’s so interesting to hear how people have moved around in their lives, and lead to lots of revelations between the participants as they released that perhaps they might have even crossed paths before!”
 
Rebecca
Props are a brilliant way to include everyone in a session. I had a magic moment in Active Armchairs at Valley View Nursing Home and always share it with trainee facilitators…
 

“One lady has her table that when chooses to always sit at. The layout of the home means that she’s close enough to the seating area to see the tv and be involved with my sessions, but she is still comfortable at her table. She always sings and joins in with arms movements even though she isn’t in the circle. This is nice, but I thought she might enjoy it more and feel included if she joined our circle so I thought of some ideas. The prop that worked best was the giant elastic. I had excellent support from Dee the Activities Co-ordinator so we were able to work together. I laid the elastic out before the start and went to chat to the participant. I explain what we were going to do and asked if she would like to join us. Luckily she did and Dee helped move her to the main circle. It was a fantastic class and a real turning point.”
 

Jess

Parachutes are such a sociable prop. Call a colour and the participant runs underneath and swops places with someone else. Yoy could adapt to include a high five under the parachute.
 
Our ideas for the best props for social inclusion…
Giant elastic
Huge piece of lycra
Big balloons or beach balls
Knotted scarves
Feathers used for mirroring
Shakers for call and response
Parachute
 

Exploring Friendship…

Becca T
A nice dance idea is people bring an item to share or the teacher brings a small selection. E.g stone, feather, cube. The dancers explore the texture/shape/pathway/feeling of the item to make their own phrase. Progress: partner up and combine 2 items. Suitable for all ages and abilities.
 
Steph
I covered the theme of Friendship last term in schools. We discussed what we felt made a good friend, and then used those ideas to create movements. We made sure we danced with people in class that perhaps we didn’t know very well or were in different year groups and kept swapping partners throughout the dance. There were lots of brilliant buzz words like ‘supportive’ and ‘caring’ which lead to some lovely trust and support movements. Then together we put all of this together into a dance to ‘You’ve got a friend in me’ from Toy Story.
 

 

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Guest Post – The Parent Dance

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Why Every Parent Should Learn To Dance

Author Bio: Ryan Howard runs SmartParentAdvice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Ryan writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase for babies and toddlers.

 

Parenthood is all about new experiences. Once your baby arrives, you are thrown right into the deep end and have to learn to take care of a new human being. As soon as you figure out how to a care for a baby, toddlerdom arrives with a whole new set of challenges. Then, before you know it, they are off to preschool, elementary school and beyond.

While you’re learning all of the new things that come along with parenthood, I would encourage you to learn to dance as well. Why do I say this? Read on to find out.

Dancing Is A Good Skill To Have In Life

There are all sorts of occasions that are a lot more fun if you know how to dance. Taking your kids to see a musician? Breaking out a few patented steps would be a blast.

Heading to a wedding? It would be fun to hit the dance floor with the family.

Dancing is just one of those things that’s a lot of fun if you can do it, and really awkward if you can’t. So, it pays to take a little time to learn at some point in your life.

Good Role Model For Kids

Kids learn so much by watching their parents. You can always tell them what you think they should do, but they will often do what you do rather than what you say.

If your kids see you dancing and having fun, they’ll want to get in on the action. On the other hand, if they see you start shifting uncomfortably once the music starts and other people start showing their stuff, they just might do the same.

Get Your Kids Into Music

Music is something that your kids might be able to enjoy over a lifetime, and dancing is a great way to help them cultivate an appreciation for music. If you know how to dance, you might just throw on Spotify and have a family dance party at home.

Once they start to enjoy music, you never know where it might lead. Maybe they will decide they want to take up piano or some other instrument. Once they can carry a tune, you might even have fun dancing while they make some music.

It’s Great Exercise

Being active is good for people of all ages. What could be more fun than getting a little exercise with your spouse on the dance floor?

It’s great exercise for your kids as well. Maybe one day, they go for a bike ride, another day they go for a swim, and then another day they do a little dancing. All of these things can be a lot of fun in their own right, but also offer huge benefits as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Final Thoughts

Some people are naturals when it comes to dancing. For others, it takes a little more effort. If you’re in the latter camp, I think it’s definitely worth taking the time to learn a few basic steps. You might even find that it’s more fun than you realized or that you have a hidden talent that you didn’t know about.

Enhance – Active Armchairs Sessions

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Written by Steph, Level 3 TRS Teacher and Level 2 Active Armchairs Facilitator.

It’s been a long time in the planning but the Enhance classes have arrived, and we are now already a few weeks into teaching our first classes! 

Together, myself, Rebecca and Katie planned each of the sessions before any classes began. Group planning ensured that we are all covering the same content in our classes and allowed each of us to have a creative input into the sessions. It’s always great to chat to other teachers about activities, dances etc that they might have used in other classes so sitting down together and sharing our ideas has ensured that we’ve brought all of our best bits together. 

In terms of the class content and approach to teaching the research project classes, we have exactly the same approach we do to every single Active Armchairs class. Nothing differs in the research project classes to ensure our work is authentic as possible. Participants still have the choice to join in, we make adaptations to suit the group (regardless if that takes us off piste from the plan), we make adaptations for the weather (very important for our recent heatwave!) and ultimately our participants at the centre of everything we do. 

We decided to start our block of tested classes with a few of our Active Armchairs classics. These are generally the songs and dances that we would use for a taster session because of their popularity and sing along worthiness! Thus our first theme was aptly named ‘Golden Records’.  The theme features songs such as ‘Delilah’, ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ and ‘I love to Boogie’. Delilah in particular is a great sing along song, and during my first class whilst I was teaching the movements to the dance the whole class erupted in song acapella! This was shortly followed by an excited participant expressing their love for the song! “Oh we love that song!” Shake, Rattle and Roll is another popular song, and a personal favourite of mine. We use brightly coloured shakers for this dance, creating different rhythms and sounds before breaking out into song and choreographed movements for the chorus.  The shakers not only bring lots of colour and different sounds into the room, they also encourage more prolonged movement. The effect of this was certainly clear in one of my classes when a participant expressed how the movement made their body feel…”Ooooo my arms, they’re having a great workout. We were all having so much fun shaking and singing we didn’t realise our arms and muscles were busy working!”

It is always exciting to take Active Armchairs classes to new venues and participants. And the classes so far haven’t been without numerous magic moments, brightening everyone’s days, including ours! Seeing participants enjoy themselves in the moment is truly special, but knowing they are eager to get going again the following week is equally as rewarding… “When are you coming again, make sure you come back…we want more of that!”

As we have now completed our first theme, ‘Golden Records’, we are now onto our next exciting theme, ‘Summer Garden’. Watch this space for the next installment of Enhance classes, celebrating all things wonderful in the Summertime! 

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Cheer Dance Show

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This term was Cheer Dance at Palace Wood Primary and it really has been a cheery summer term. They always make my day!
 
From the first session I taught the dancers about motions and formations and incorporated them into the dances. Once they had learnt what motions were in the first week, on following weeks they did their own as I did the register.
 
I gave them some formations to choose from and they picked some for their small groups.  Then they organised themselves and found the most efficient pathways between formations on their own. This was a challenge, but they did it and were proud of themselves when they realised how quickly they could do it.
 
Over the term they learnt two dances. For the first dance, as well as formations, they added some of their own choreography in small groups. For the second dance we choreographed a lot together as a large group. They are so supportive of each other and it was nice to work in this way.

At the end of term we invited family and friends to come and see the dances. Turn out was great and there was a huge round of applause at the end.
 
They are a really lovely group and have been a pleasure to work with. I’m looking forward to coming back next term, this time for Creative Dance!
 
Here’s a video about our term. We didn’t get to film the whole dance but the snippets of film and photographs show some of the things we’ve been up to.
 
 
 

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Balfour Infants Dance Show

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Written By Katie, TRS Teacher at Balfour Infants School
 
The theme for the show dance at Balfour Infants School was “Around the World”, and we had dances that represented different countries or continents. We had to push the show forwards a few weeks due to me being away on the very last week and school activities in the other weeks meant it had to be this week! They worked very hard to be ready.
 
We started in Africa, with some African drum music, which went into music from the Lion King (the audience loved it when that music came on!).
 
Then we travelled to Spain, where they used their scarves like tango dancers.
 
 
 
 
 
We then went to India, where we were lucky enough to have a pupil who travels to India occasionally and knows Punjabi dancing. She kindly taught us some traditional Punjabi dance moves!
 
We ended up back in England, with a street dance to Little Mix; we ended with lots of energy and power!
 
At the end, the audience asked for an encore because they enjoyed it so much! The year 2s have worked extremely hard and I’m aware that they frequently practice in the playground together. It’s so great to hear how committed they are, and they have worked very well as a dancing family.

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Enhance – The Story So Far

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For those of you who are new to the TRS blog, welcome. To those who visit regularly,  I’m so excited to have this new strand for you!!

We have officially announced our brand new and exciting project, Enhance, although it’s been in the planning stages for over a year now. The team and I will be writing blogs throughout the project and I thought I’d start with an intro about what we’ve been doing so far. It’s been a journey with many twists and surprising turns that have lead us to something that Alice and I never expected when she first said to me, “I’ll do some Active Armchairs research.”

The very first step on this journey was to speak to the TRS Teachers. Alice and I chose the All Hands Meeting for this and we all mind mapped, drew, talked and got enthusiastic. The most important thing to come from this was that the participants should always be considered first because their well being is at the centre of everything we do. We talked about what is important to participants of Active Armchairs and ways in which we could carry out tests that would be most appropriate to them.

As I had a lot of experience with dance and project management, but little with research, I felt it would be a good idea to speak to some experts. I also went along to some events to find out more. Places and people who have influenced the project along the way include Medway Healthy Weight Summit 2018, Scott Elliot (Head of Medway Health and Wellbeing Services), Patricia Vella-Burrows (Pricipal Research Fellow, Sidney De Hann Research Centre), various staff members at University of Kent, Medway Dance Network and Medway and Kent Dance, Arts, Culture Health and Wellbeing Symposium. Without all of this input the project wouldn’t be what it is today.
 
Alongside this, Alice and I set about working out exactly what we wanted to ask. We settled upon the following questions.
 

I also decided to make the study as ‘robust’ as possible. I’ve become very used to the word, robust, as researchers use it a lot when they’re doing high quality research! It is important. The NESTA standards of evidence were recommended to me and I thought this was a great way to ensure people could trust the outcomes of the project. I’m hoping we will reach the very highest standard.

It also became apparent that there is a surprising amount of dance research out there, but it isn’t easy to find. I want the outcomes of the project to be easily found, understood and utilised, and I have some ideas in mind. As well as the report being available to all, we are also going to have a training day for Active Armchairs facilitators. This will be an unusual opportunity for everyone to get together, discuss, develop ideas and share practice. Alice and I will also be sharing how the results will influence Active Armchairs.

Somewhere in amongst all of this I met with Ian Farr, PhD Student at University of Kent. His work allies beautifully with our research aims and this was when the project began to swell and strengthen. Ian has an academic interest in the health and well being of older adults and how psychosocial factors may influence physical performance. His research will be completely independent of anything The Right Step do to ensure objectivity and to avoid bias. Simply put, we run classes and he does research about it. I won’t be there when he carries out any aspect of the study and he won’t be attending any classes.
 
After this we needed to find suitable care homes. They had to meet a few different criteria, but long story short, the chosen 5, who are kindly giving time and energy to make this happen are Ashley Gardens, Barton Court, Little Court, Warwick House and Woodstock. I’m sure their staff and residents will love the 20 Active Armchairs sessions we have planned for them!

We also have 3 facilitators, Steph, Becca G and I will be visiting on a weekly basis, except on testing weeks, and we can’t wait to get started. We’ll be planning sessions together and adapting them to the group each week.

We have a detailed plan,  we have the right people and we have the places. Next we will start the project. Research has just begun and sessions begin soon. We’ll keep you up dated, but do let us know what aspects of the project you want to hear about.

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Ofsted Influences

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The new Ofsted inspection framework draft was published in January 2019 and is currently in review. I might be getting ahead, but it’s important that we begin to think about how dance in schools can be influenced by it and how our extra curricular, cross-curricular and dance for physical activity classes will support schools on providing excellent dance provision. Although dance is a small part of the many things schools do, we want what we do to make a difference, not just to participants, but to the school as a whole. We are already doing great things within schools in Kent, this is just another way to improve what we do. 

You can find the inspection framework here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/education-inspection-framework-draft-for-consultation

Currently inspections do not focus heavily on sport in general, especially in short inspections, but they do look at cultural development and dance could be an indicator of positive participation in cultural activity. Schools can try international dance styles relating to the diverse backgrounds of pupils within the school (read this blog post about when we went to Greenvale Infants and danced familiar dances for pupils such as traditional Polish and Slavic dances), dance that celebrates National Days such as May Day (May Pole Dance or Morris Dance) or historical dance styles taught within our Educating Dance classes (Tudor Dance for example).

Extra curricular provision is something already considered by inspectors, (normally in relation to Pupil Premium and Sport Premium budgets) and this is something we can easily add to the school day. Dance clubs can be varied and tailored to the specific needs of the school. For example, if girls are not responding to PE within school time or if they have lower attendance of clubs, a confidence building dance club is perfect. Alternatively, if the school wants to encourage creativity, a Creative Dance Club (EYFS – KS2) or Choreography Club (KS3 – 4) would support this aim.

In terms of evidencing value for money, two of our company aims are

  • To provide quality, well organised, accessible dance opportunities for all.
  • To provide paid and voluntary work for dance professionals and to increase the recognition of dance teaching in the community as a career

Our pricing policy reflects this so schools know they can get high quality dance clubs at reasonable prices. We even have deals for long term bookings and MATs who book for multiple schools. Schools are able to make a profit from our classes easily, if they choose to, and this can be put towards other things. For more information about using PE and Sport Premium Funding for dance please read One Dance UK’s funding document, https://www.onedanceuk.org/programme/children-young-people/dance-in-schools/ and, if you would like to know how we can help specifically to make clubs successful, please see our blog post.

In her speech at Youth Sport Trust 2019 Conference, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Speilman, admits that currently inspections are heavily tilted towards data and says that the new framework will look at what matters to children, “What are they being taught and how? How are they being set up to succeed in the next stage of their lives?” Read the transcript here, https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/amanda-spielman-at-the-youth-sport-trust-2019-conference

At TRS, the content of our classes, what children are being taught, has always been extremely important. We plan with the individual participants in mind, use school themes and topics and make sure participants learn best practice and teach safe dance technique that is appropriate to the type of class. Our dance teachers are not observed during Ofsted inspections as they aren’t faculty members, but that doesn’t stop the odd inspector enjoying a moment watching a happy dance class and it doesn’t mean the TRS Teachers aren’t working to high standards all the time. It does mean that our teachers are not teaching for tests and have to freedom to educate the whole child, preparing them for further dance education or life in general. There are a lot of blogs out there about how dance makes great people!

We must also look at how school teachers can provide great dance lessons during school time. Although we provide Educating Dance classes for schools, it is sometimes more appropriate for a school to provide training for their staff so they can deliver appropriate and effective dance classes themselves. In our training, Dance: A Cross-curricular Approach and Dance in the EYFS, we provide school staff with the tools and confidence to do this. Our cross-curricular flow chart gives them the framework they need to design and deliver high quality dance lessons. Dance can be a fantastic tool for improving how the curriculum is taught and is excellent for a thematic, creative approach.

In terms of monitoring, evaluation and impact,  the Educating Dance teachers are always happy to provide feedback and we can support the school on this. We also ask class participants for feedback at least once a year. Our CPD for school staff can also have an additional mentoring side to support staff and the SLT with evaluating progress. All of the TRS Teachers are up to date with the relevant legislation and this makes it easy for schools to ensure they have up to date records as well.

To find out more about the new framework and the EYFS in general, see Nursery World’s review of the plans.

https://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/nursery-world/news/1166634/education-inspection-framework-2019-key-changes-for-early-years

It is no secret that dance classes can provide for broad and rich learning. A varied approach to dance including physical activity, learning and development is key to a quality dance lesson. There are plenty of ideas within our blog, but we are just a phone call or email away if anyone would like advice about dance in schools. I have a passion for excellent dance education for all and, as Director of The Right Step, I’m able to pass this passion and my experience onto the TRS Teachers. We are here to help the schools (inc. EYFS settings), and other organisations, we work with meet the aims set by governing bodies such as Ofsted as well as aims set within schools themselves.
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