Football and Education: What Does the Future hold for Wales?
Football in the Curriculum
So, let's go back to the early 2000s. Only recently devolved, education was put into the hands of the Welsh in 1999. Immediately, the new Welsh Assembly (now Government) were quick to ensure a focus on schools and young learners. Radical overhauls were promised: an eventual erradication of SATs; the introduction of a 'foundation phase'; and the use of a 'Welsh Baccalaureate' programme. Such measures proved promising to many, but it would take until 2008 to see them introduced.
Participation in Football
Since 2014, Gareth and I have been working in schools. We have volunteered, become teaching assistants and eventually teachers. Upon asking children (primary age) what their favourite subject is - the answer has generally been, no matter where the school is - P.E. During my first teaching role in 2016 - I was asked to cover the leadership of P.E. for a teacher on maternity. However, it became clear early on as to the lack of focus offered to the subject by some schools in Wales.
With much of the current curriculum focused on both the Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) and Digital Competency Framework (DCF), timetables seem intent of covering these areas, sometimes to the detriment of sport and physical exercise. This is not common across all schools, but in the ones that I have taught in, PE, alongside drama, art and music is often the first to go if an area of maths and English hasn't been covered or understood first time.
'By developing learners’ motivation, resilience, empathy and decision-making abilities, they can be supported to become ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives.
Learners can also be supported to become ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world by developing their ability to show respect, to value equity, to listen to others and to evaluate the social influences affecting them.'
As we have previously written, sport in school is not limited to PE, however. Gareth has written in great detail of the need to use sports history as a means to contextualise skills being learnt in class and we can hope that future topics taught in primary classrooms use sport as a hook. Although many schools will opt to radically change its contexts for learning, there will be a great many who, understandably, continue with the tried and tested - Tudors, Celts, Romans, Rivers etc. The study of sport can help to explain all areas of the future curriculum, not just 'Health and Wellbeing'.
From experience, some of my best lessons, in terms of engagement, have been those with football at their heart. My first teaching interview featured a maths reasoning task based on the Welsh national team at Euro 2016 and later lessons have also evolved to include football's incredible history. One of these simply started with the question, 'how would you feel if you weren't allowed to play football?'. This would become part of a writing task in which my class composed empassioned letters of appeal to the FA over the 1921 ban on women's football. Football is more than just scorelines and mere physical excersise. It can explain so much of how and why society is the way it is - but uses a theme that children can relate to.
The future of football and education in Wales is certainly something to look out for. Nationwide, the game has never been so popular. Much of the credit can go to the successes of both the men and women's national teams but a great deal also goes to the increase in coverage of football, at times to the detriment of other popular sports. The School Sports Survey has been a vital resource to the planning of government and the promised boost in budget towards youth sport in Wales. We hope that this will feed into schools with new equipment and new opportunities for teachers and practitioners to be trained in how to properly teach stimulating PE lessons.
We are constantly told that football and sport are vital to the development of children, and the active encouragement of participation is crucial to achieving a lifelong love of physical activity. The new curriculum offers us a chance like never before to utilise sport in order to inspire an inclusive and engaging future for the children of Wales.
 Sport and Active Recreation in Wales, 2003
 Developing the Curriculum Cymreig, 2003