PE Insights Episode 14: Tristan Muller-Forster – A Principal’s Perspective


Welcome to another episode of PE Insights in which Nathan Walker and his guest, Tristan Muller-Forster, embark on an insightful exploration of the educational journey. This podcast delves into the experiences and perspectives of a seasoned PE teacher, as Tristan reflects on two decades of experience, serving as both an ambassador for the subject and an advocate for meaningful change within the educational landscape. His focus is on encouraging PE teachers to embrace daily practices that go beyond the conventional, fostering holistic development and enriching the lives of students.

Educational Roots: Importance of an influential PE Mentor

The journey kicks off with Tristan’s educational roots, where the distinction between school sports and physical education became apparent. He unveils the pivotal role played by inspirational PE teachers in shaping his trajectory, from school sports achievements to challenges faced in university days. A key turning point for Tristan was the influence of a remarkable PE mentor, who played a crucial role in nurturing skills, confidence, and leadership abilities. The impact of this mentorship extended beyond mere sports performance, influencing the decision to pursue a career in PE teaching.

University Years: Overcoming Hurdles

The conversation turns to the bumps in the road encountered during Tristan’s university days, emphasising the unique challenges faced in creating dance pieces, gymnastics routines, and navigating unfamiliar athletic territories. Despite the hurdles, the support he received in physical education became a beacon for fostering communication skills, confidence, and leadership opportunities.

From Teacher to Head: School Improvement as the Driving Force

Tristan discusses his transition from a PE teacher to a leadership position. The profound impact of school improvement became a driving force, emphasising the importance of bettering the lives of young individuals through a holistic approach to physical education.

The Current Landscape: Why Physical Education Matters

Tristan reflects on the evolving importance of physical education for young people. In the age of smartphones and social media, he stresses the significance of imparting fundamentals, fostering physical literacy, and instilling values crucial for an active and healthy lifestyle. Tristan emphasises student voice in shaping the curriculum. He details how this approach allows girls to take ownership, fostering a curriculum that aligns with their preferences and needs.

Challenges and Opportunities: The Financial Struggle and Curriculum Balancing Act

Addressing the current challenges faced in the education system, the conversation shifts to the financial constraints impacting sports fixtures and transportation costs. It also delves into the delicate balance between theoretical PE, curriculum development, and the pressures of performance metrics. A hypothetical scenario unfolds as Tristan envisions an unlimited budget, which he says would be used to employ more PE teachers, refine the curriculum, and ensuring a balance that enhances both teaching and extracurricular activities without compromising well-being.

Building Relationships Beyond the Classroom

Tristan underscores the importance of building relationships beyond the classroom, emphasising the need to take opportunities for meaningful engagement. Drawing from personal experiences, he highlights the transformative impact of a well-structured trips and visits programme, fostering cultural and social experiences that extend beyond the realms of traditional PE. He encourages PE teachers to seize opportunities for experiential learning, stressing the significance of multicultural experiences. These experiences not only enhance social responsibility but also instil cooperation among students from different backgrounds.

Being Proactive in Teaching and Learning

Tristan advocates for creativity, encouraging PE teachers to contribute actively to pilot studies, research, and educational initiatives. By embracing creativity and taking part in broader educational conversations, PE teachers can highlight the unique contributions of practical subjects in the academic landscape.

Navigating Personal Development

Tristan emphasises the role of PE teachers in the broader school environment, particularly in the personal development space. As the focus on personal development grows, he encourages PE teachers to contribute their expertise to areas like mental health and well-being, leveraging the positive impacts of exercise on students’ overall development.

Closing Thoughts: Be Yourself, but with More Skill:

The podcast concludes with a powerful message encapsulated in the school’s motto: “Be yourself, but with more skill.” Tristan encourages PE educators to remain true to their identity while continually enhancing their skill set. The key takeaway is a call to strive for personal and professional growth, embodying authenticity and skilfulness in equal measure.

About the Guest

Today’s episode is a conversation with Tristan Muller-Forster. Tristan is the Principal of Tavistock College in Devon, part of the Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust. Tristan is a qualified PE teacher whose journey has led him to his current position of Principal of a large secondary school in the South West.

Listen and Connect

To listen to the full episode please follow these links to Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

If you would like to be a guest on the PE Insights Podcast please reach out by contacting us here or reach out to Nathan Walker via X at @NWalkerPE

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