There’s a great deal of research that shows how physical activity can have a positive impact on academic achievement. That’s why we’re starting to see schools add active breaks into their daily routines, and getting children up and moving while in their classrooms. The Youth Sport Trust’s Active 30:30 initiative is one example of this, in that it encourages schools to deliver half of the 60 minutes of physical activity recommended for all children as part of the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan.
Between us, we’ve attended many PE conferences where medical professionals have discussed the positive impact that physical activity has on the human brain, and particularly how it can help get the most out of children in terms of their behaviour, academic outcomes and overall wellbeing.
What do you need?
There are various initiatives out there specifically designed to enhance the quality of a school’s PE provision, but the first step should always be to look carefully at what your children actually need. What do they enjoy doing? What’s likely to engage and inspire them? The best way of finding this out is by simply asking. Organise a pupil voice questionnaire and then follow it up with a similar survey for staff. Who feels confident teaching PE and who doesn’t? Which areas do your colleagues feel most confident in, and what steps can the school take to better support them?
Consider also what you want the primary focus of your PE lessons to be. Should they revolve around discovering who’s best at performing certain forms of sport and types of activities?
Or should they concentrate on seeing who can play honestly and abide by the rules, while being considerate and respectful of others? You’ll want to ensure the children can achieve their own personal bests, and persevere when learning a new skill – all of which is more important than simply focusing on who wins and who loses. PE can do much to improve pupils’ behaviour, particularly during break and lunchtimes. It’s possible for incidents at those times and broader behavioural issues to filter into classrooms, but an effective way of preventing that can be teach children how to play together productively.
Try setting up mini games at break times that the pupils are able to self-lead. Maybe appoint some Y5 and Y6 pupils to help lead activities for your KS1 cohort over lunch, or manage games played by your younger KS2 children. The social skills children will develop by doing this can play a crucial part in their development past KS2 into secondary and beyond, enabling them to communicate well with others, negotiate and achieve positive shared outcomes.
Improving a school’s PE provision is something that teachers, being trained professionals, are well placed to do with the skills they have. Some may need that extra confidence to push the necessary changes through, which is where support from an organisation like Get Set 4 PE can help – but the biggest obstacle will likely be their lack of time.
There might not seem to be enough hours in the day to engage in research, and plan specific activities in a subject areas they lack knowledge of – but if you can give teachers a plan based on what the pupils need, which addresses your staff’s professional gaps and instruct them on how to implement it, every primary teacher will be able to deliver high quality PE.
Kathryn Whittall and Natalie Richardson are the co-founders of Get Set 4 PE.