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Merry Christmas - Our Review of 2021

As 2021 draws to a close we reflect on what has been the strangest of years but one that has helped to shape Physical Education & Active Kids to be able to scale up and ensure that we are able to help engage children in physical activity and PE for many years to come.

PEAK have navigated Covid well so far and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of my team, both past and present, for helping us deliver Covid safe PE lessons and holiday camps to thousands of children across the North East. We have avoided any major issues with the safety protocols that we have put into place since the pandemic arrived and our team have stayed safe throughout – indeed the number of staff days missed due to staff members either catching Covid or having to self-isolate has been miniscule in 2021 and unlike other managers I have not had the stress of having to arrange cover for our various activities and PE lessons. For that I am eternally grateful to them all. With the recent new variant hitting the country we are determined to continue prioritising the health of our staff and the children and teachers that we work with. Our risk register is (and will continue to be) updated ready to send out to schools upon our return after Christmas.

Looking back 12 months ago we were just beginning our journey as an Apprenticeship Training Provider. PEAK have always promoted apprenticeships and well over 100 young apprentices have joined PEAK since our inception in 2014. Our pass rate has always been superb with nearly 85% of these apprentices completing and passing their courses. Taking the (big) step to become a training provider had to be the next stage in our evolution. Its not that we were unhappy with Sunderland College, indeed quite the opposite, without their support over the last 6 years PEAK would not have been as successful as we have been and I cannot thank Peter Robertson and the team at Sunderland College enough for the support they have given us. (Peter - we'll grab dinner together early in 2022 by way of a thank-you.)

Becoming an Apprenticeship Training Provider was tricky – developing into an organisation that has aspirations to become an Outstanding Provider has been (and still remains) one of the hardest tasks that we have been faced with! In 2021 we appointed our first ever Independent Advisory Board, consisting of three members; Tony Allen, former director at the SFA and CEO of his own training company; Barbara Veeramallay-Permaul, an experienced quality and compliance officer; and Paul Graham, an experienced FE senior lecturer and former MD of Highbury College. Their insight and strategic support has been invaluable and I am certain that with their support we will continue to thrive in this sector.

Another new initiative for us was the launch of our first ever Pioneers Wrap Around Care provision at Riverside Primary Academy. We had toyed with the idea of a ‘youth-club’ model for schools to provide longer, active after school club provision and this idea developed into the WAC market. PEAK now operate after school child care in which we are able to increase activity levels amongst children whilst ensuring they remain safe and cared for until their parents finish work. This is a provision that we will soon develop and offer to other schools as we passionately believe that active childcare is of huge benefit to all children who attend.

Our school PE provision has remained exceptional and some of the reviews and testimonials we have received from teachers have demonstrated to me that without doubt the quality of teaching and learning that we offer is head and shoulders above that of our competitors. 2021 saw the launch of our ‘Value Added’ offer to schools which has provided them loads of freebies, which include:

· A dedicated members area on our website with hundreds of free resources including: PE teaching resources, SEND resources, healthy food recipes, sports assemblies, a sports leadership course with a library of games resources and a library of problem solving activities.

· Access to the Mi-Moves app for all of their KS2 children – this is a superb resource which allows children to log their activity levels both in and out of schools allowing schools to develop an active community.

· The AfPE Safe Practice guide for Physical Education which provides schools with everything they need to manage health and safety across the subject.

Our Value-Added offer also has seen some key changes to the way we deliver PE. In early 2021 we undertook a marketing and brand change to incorporate our new tag-line Liberi Sani Ad Vitam (Children Fit for Life). Within our lessons now we include key life skills tuition allowing children to develop their skills, not only in fundamental movements and a wide range of different sports, but also in:

· Empathy

· Time Management

· Communication

· Problem solving

· Emotional Intelligence

· Creativity

· Resilience

· Critical thinking

· Decision making and

· Critical thinking

Our aim now is not solely that children who receive their PE teaching from PEAK make rapid progress in the subject but also equip themselves with the skills that truly make them fit for life!

The Value-Added offer, alongside the demonstrably high quality of our PE teaching is certainly paying off as we seem to be in almost constant conversations with schools at present with our delivery days on target to increase by 50% by Easter 2022.

2021 has also seen us develop a new partnership with Rockcliffe First School to deliver holiday camps on their site. I am so pleased that they have agreed to host us at February half-term and Easter as well as for 3 weeks in the Summer. It was an absolute delight working with children from Rockcliffe and the surrounding schools and our holiday camps this year broke our records with pretty much every day selling out with 100 children present every day!

We were particularly pleased to be able to help a large number of schools in the Summer term who had had their plans for residentials scuppered by Covid. We launched our Trailblazers in Schools which included activities such as Quidditch, Dragonball, Archery, Nerf Wars, Dodgeball and Football Archery! We were pleased to be able to help so many schools with our team working all across the North-East delivering fun, active days. I was privileged to be able to assist at the very first of these with Josh, our fantastic apprentice, at Kielder Primary. The feedback we received from schools was amazing and we were proud at being able to provide something for children who had lost their opportunity to attend a residential due to coronavirus.

The number of adult events that we have run this year has also increased substantially and we have delivered events to hundreds, if not thousands, of people this year. Huge thanks go to Xtreme and Excel Events who have sent work our way and our wonderful team of sessional coaches who have delivered at events from Morpeth to Barnard Castle throughout 2021. I would like to say a special thank-you to Bex, who won our very first Employee of the Month award in November. Bex has covered more events than any other coach this year, she has been an absolute superstar and a real trooper travelling the length and breadth of the North-East ensuring that events have run smoothly and that all of the participants have had such a great time.

2021 has also seen some massive staff changes (and challenges) which we have managed really well. We have had to say a fond farewell to some key members of the team who have given so much to PEAK and contributed to our growth over the years. Jess, who had started with PEAK as an apprentice and worked her way up to her role as Holiday Camp Manager, left us in August to take on a TA job at a school for children with special educational needs. Having been with PEAK for so long Jess was a sad loss but I am sure that she will forge a successful career in school. Galina, our original Training manager, who did so much to help set us up as an Apprenticeship Training Provider, left us in October to go back to the chalkface and resume her career as a teacher. I will always be grateful to Galina for the work she put in to help us get up and running and during lockdowns Galina remained unfurloughed and was responsible for all of the fantastic content we put out to schools to assist with their home schooling. Other sad losses included Hannah, who began her career as an apprentice with us 3½ years ago and has been delivering some outstanding PE in schools in Teesside, and Joe another former apprentice who delivered PE on our behalf at a school in North Tyneside. We wish all of our former team members the absolute best for their futures and sincerely hope that they enjoy their new careers as much as we enjoyed having them on our team.

But of course when one door closes another opens and we have been so lucky to welcome so many outstanding new members to the team this year. Dave joined us in August as our new Community Manager, Dave has relocated to the North East and left a Premier Sport franchise in the North-West where he had worked for 11 years (following two FA Youth Cup winners medals!). Robbyn, another former PEAK apprentice, returned in August, following her time away at university to gain her teachers qualifications and doing a Masters in education, to take up the Training manager’s role at PEAK. Olivia is now a full PE Educator having been an apprentice with us for the last 2½ years at Horton Grange School. Ashleigh joined us as Teesside Regional Manager having gained experience in the sector as a Senior Coach at Elite Kids Coaching. We are also very excited to have Laura joining us in January as a PE Educator, Laura currently works at JB Sports Coaching in Lincolnshire, one of PEAK’s partner organisations in the Aspire Active Partnership, which we have always been delighted to be part of. We have also welcomed into the team our new Pioneers team of Gaynor, Jen and Emmy who have made a fantastic start with us as participation in this initiative is steadily growing due to their diligence and hard work.

Of course with so many apprentices coming through the company we always have a steady turnover of team members. 2021 has seen us welcome Ellie, Heather and Jamie to PEAK and starting after the Christmas break we will be welcoming Julia and Craig to the team. We will have fewer apprentices employed by us in the future as we are now the training provider and we will have to manage the issues that this may cause us. With regard to apprentices, this message would be even longer if I listed every apprentice who has finished their course and moved on but I would like to say a fond and sad farewell to Lewis and Ryan who have both been with PEAK for 2½ years completing 2 apprenticeships at their host schools, you will be very sorely missed guys! I would like to wish every apprentice who has (or will be in the next couple of months) moved on having completed their course, the very best of luck for your future and I hope that you look back on your time at PEAK with happiness.

As PEAK has diversified and grown this year we have chosen to change our management structure and develop a Senior Leadership Team, all of whom are taking responsibility for different areas of the business. I have already mentioned our Community Manager, Dave and our new Training Manager, Robbyn but I am also delighted that Tony has taken on the mantel of School Delivery Manager. When PEAK was in its infancy, before anybody other than myself had pulled on an orange t-shirt I received an email from a headteacher who had agreed to take on an apprentice. She alerted me to a young man who was delivering lunchtime play activities at her school. He soon contacted me also with his CV enquiring whether I might have any jobs for him. I will never forget his interview, how nervous this former ex-professional footballer was but I immediately sensed a connection and offered him a position – subject to me securing contracts in schools for him to work in! At that point Tony became our first ever PE Educator and of the 4 schools he originally worked in, 3 we are still delivering PE in, which is testament to the exceptional PE Educator he has become over the years.

As the founder of PEAK, and the man who has been spinning all of the plates in the background since 2014 it has been a difficult decision to hand over responsibility for the management of different parts of the business, I’m guessing that this is a fairly normal feeling! However, I can state with absolute certainty that the management team I have around me has my total confidence and I am also certain that between us we will take the company to the next level and ensure its commitment to both high quality PE and getting more children active. With the addition of Gaynor, Laura, Ashley, Jen, Olivia and Emmy this is the strongest position we have ever been in.

2021 has also seen PEAK develop its sustainability and environmental policies as we aim to ensure that we do our bit for the environment. It is at this point that I must make an apology, the schools at which we deliver PE or PECS usually see me rock up in the last week of term with a gift (usually solely for the head). This year we decided that as a Christmas gift every delivery school would receive a tree from us. Unfortunately these fruit trees have been delayed and will not now arrive until the new year! We look forward to presenting all delivery schools with a gift that every pupil and member of staff will be able to enjoy for many, many years to come and as these trees grow into permanence at their schools it is symbolic of PEAK’s commitment to permanence in the North East following a year which has seen us make so many wonderful and purposeful changes!

All that remains now is for me to wish everybody: all of the teachers we work alongside; the pupils we teach; the children who attend our holiday camps and their wonderful families; the children who attend our Pioneers clubs; the adults who have attended weekend events run by our marvellous coaches; our partners and their teams in the Aspire Active Partnership; our partnership organisations such as MiMoves, Sunderland College, Peninsula, Xtreme, Excel, Skills Office Network and TTR Barnes; our wonderful team and of course former colleagues a very merry Christmas and a very prosperous and happy 2022.

Every day is a joy working with you all.

Dave Johnson


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