How to choose school topics for your activity provision

Children’s activity providers do the fun stuff! They bounce into schools armed with enthusiasm and a whole host of exciting resources along with years of experience specialising in their chosen field – so surely that should be enough, right?

Whilst enthusiasm, expertise and exciting resources should definitely be non-negotiables, the school market is an increasingly tough one to crack. The reasons for this are many and will vary from school to school but the main challenges faced by schools are budget, time, and meeting attainment targets. Therefore, the days of booking an activity provider for the sheer fun of it are fading fast.

The more you can link your activities to the National Curriculum and add value to current in-school study in a unique and engaging way, the more you will have schools clamouring to book your services.

Your first port of call will most definitely be the National Curriculum. This is the statutory government guidance that most schools will follow unless there are unique circumstances for doing things differently. The National Curriculum outlines the programs of study specific to each key stage and year group of a pupil’s life for each subject area. For young children – Nursery and Reception – they will follow the EYFS or Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. This information is readily available from the government website.

Literacy, Maths and Science are the main core subjects although PE, PSHE, History, Geography, Music, RE, ICT, Art & DT, MfL are also compulsory, (also known as foundation subjects) especially prior to GCSE options.

It should be fairly obvious which subject your provision will link to primarily, depending on what you provide. For example, if you provide team games, ball skills or sports then you will link to PE, storytelling will link to literacy and craft activities to art and DT. Where things become a little more complicated is when there are cross-curricular links. These are important as they allow pupils to transfer skills across disciplines and make important links in their learning. Again, through research, you should be able to find the curriculum objectives that best meet your provision. For example yoga will definitely link to PE as it is a physical form of exercise but it will also link to PSHE as it is very much about mindfulness and meditation too and these are linked to the wellbeing aspects of PSHE.

Whilst the objectives for the core subjects are quite explicit and detailed, objectives for foundation subjects are often less detailed and so schools will choose topics through which to teach these and apply learning across the curriculum. I have often been asked which topics a school might follow for a particular subject, and there is no definitive answer as they will vary from school to school, but there are definitely some common themes and popular choices.

For example, lots of schools will do a topic that links to the festival of Bonfire Night in November and may choose something like The Great Fire of London. The links here could be science – light and shadow, fire, heating and cooling – history – the significant figure that was Guy Fawkes – RE – festivals and celebrations – Art – painting using warm colours and different effects, and so on.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and the links will again vary from school to school. Popular topics such as Stone Age Man may be linked to famous texts such as Stig of the Dump for reading or a topic about growing in the springtime could be linked to science and life cycles or PSHE thinking about changes as we grow.

So why is this important to you as an activity provider? The reason that this is relevant is that schools will very often want some kind of ‘hook’ to start a topic, something that is exciting and different to really get the children engaged, or they may need a specific area of expertise that they don’t have in school such as playing an instrument or an ‘out of the ordinary’ dance workshop. At the end of the day, whilst teachers are amazing, they cannot possibly be experts in everything and having your expertise will be invaluable, but only if it adds value to the objectives they need to cover.

First and foremost, schools are about academic progression in a safe and engaging environment, so the more in-line your provision is with the responsibilities they have to fulfil the better.

If you are unsure what topics might be appealing to schools, just go to the website of a school that you would like to work with and check out their topic plan for the year. School websites are the first stop prior to an Ofsted inspection and so they need to be up-to-date and comprehensive. Knowing what topics your chosen school will be covering that year will enable you to frame your activity in such a way that it sparks interest and makes heads and subject leaders take notice. It will also help you to plan your marketing around key events such as Book Week, Science Week, Walk to School Challenges and much more.

Whilst getting your services into schools can definitely be challenging, if you do your research and frame what you do, using the right language, then you’ll be surprised at the difference this can make.

If you would like more information about this and other curriculum matters, then please feel free to join my mailing list and I’ll be sure to keep you to date with tips and offers

Written by Karen Stanley BA PGCE MSc – The Curriculum Expert

By becoming a member of ICAP you’re joining a community of like-minded professionals and business owners in the children’s activity sector working towards excellence

Pip Wilkins

Pip Wilkins is the Chief Executive of the British Franchise Association (bfa). With 25 years’ experience in the franchise sector, Pip has worked her way up within the Association, gaining insight from all areas of the business and the franchise industry. She is well-known and highly regarded in franchising for her dedication and depth of knowledge. Pip regularly speaks at conferences and seminars both domestically and internationally, as well as writing on franchising matters for national, local and franchising trade press. Pip is also a regular judge for the annual bfa HSBC Franchise Awards, the Franchise Marketing Awards and Global Franchise Awards. Pip represents the UK at both the European Franchise Federation (EFF) and World Franchise Council (WFC). The bfa has grown to be one of the largest franchise associations in Europe, and one of the most successful associations in the world.

Theo Millward

Theo Millward is a graduate of Lancaster University with a BBA in Management. In 2016 Theo purchased UK swim school, Swimtime from the founders which teaches 20,000 children a week. Following a multi-award- winning digital transformation, during the global pandemic, Theo and his team founded Franscape, a saas that digitally transforms Franchise brands. FranScape won New Business of the Year at the UK Business Awards.

Andy Georgiou

Andy is the Founder of ICAP and a leading UK Franchise Business Consultant. He is fiercely committed to helping children’s activity providers build successful and profitable businesses. With qualifications in Business Management, Digital Media and Marketing, he has helped build, advise and grow leading 6 and 7 fiqure children’s education, sports and activity brands in the past 17 years.

Frank Sahlein

Frank has been active in the Children’s Activity Center industry as an athlete, coach, business owner, consultant and business broker. He is a native of San Mateo, California and graduated from San Jose State University in California (USA).
Frank was a pioneer of the Children’s Learning Opportunity Center concept from 1976 – 2016 at the Wings Center in Boise, Idaho (USA) – a blend of Sports Instruction, Arts, Education, Entertainment and Outreach programs.
As a business management innovator, Frank has delivered over 1,000 presentations for a variety of Children’s Activity Center industries such as gymnastics, swimming, cheerleading, dance, martial arts/ninja and child care/education.
3rd Level Consulting is a Business Development and Service Provider Partner for private industry companies, associations, and organizations in the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Panama.
Two-time recipient of the National Business Leader Award from USA Gymnastics, Frank is the author of “Building Your Business Potential” and “Designing Your Empowered Life”. He is the creator of the SmartEDGE™ Business Applications and Management Certification Courses. He is the co-founder of LEAP Learning and the MetaSpheres Corp, and is the founder and Executive Director of the International Association of Child Development Programs.
His passions include his beautiful wife Lourdes Gonzalez, family, friends, fitness training, transformational reading and travel.