The debate is moving forward – #realpe
This article reflects the reason why there must be a differentiation between physical education and school sport.

The negative experiences in this article do not happen for pupils taught by members of my department. If they did, I would deem the lessons to be a “4”.

Old school teachers would say it’s character building – I would say it’s destructive and disengaging.

PE must be inclusive, meaning that every pupil must be given the opportunity and support in lessons to make progress. The common misconception (and mistake still being made by some PE teachers) is that progress needs to be focused on physical skills and performance in sport. It doesn’t.

Physical Education should develop pupils socially, personally, creatively, cognitively and develops knowledge and understanding about how the body responds to physical activity. All this is achieved through physical activities, which subsequently improves physical / sporting performance.

By the time pupils reach secondary school, not all pupils are “sporty”. We all have different interests. This should be acknowledged and respected. Not all pupils are proficient at basic fundamental movement skills – especially if they have spent a majority their PE lessons at primary school playing team sports in a competitive environment, instead of developing their physical literacy through a broader range of more inclusive multi-skill activities. There are also a range of fitness levels, affected by a combination of lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors. This needs to be handled with sensitivity.

So lets take the example of running the 1500m from the article. Why would a PE teacher get an “average” group of pupils to run a timed 1500m? If you get every pupil in the class to “run” the 1500m, the likely outcomes would be:

-pupils are likely to realise they can’t run 1500m without stopping.
– a majority of pupils are taught that they are unfit and that they aren’t as good as the others in the class.
– There can only be one winner, with upto 25 losers (pending on group size).

No skills developed, just confidence knocked and enjoyment of physical activity in most (if not all pupils) depleted.

Instead, I use a range of lessons to develop pacing skills, which gets pupils to work in small groups, set targets, review performances, give and receive feedback and develop a clear understanding of how their body works and challenge themselves appropriately.

For example, following a series of pacing activities, I would use the 1500m world record time to set a challenge to the pupils – how far can you run in 3mins 26secs.  
-Pupils pair up with a partner with similar fitness levels.
-pupils travel as far as possible in the WR time – setting a personal best – the first level of competition pupils need to achieve.
-pupils review their performance – in terms of distance (results) and their pacing (performance).
– pupils challenged to run at a steady pace for the set time and to improve on their distance achieved (beating pb, second level of competition).
-pupils plan second attempt and set target.
-another review, possibly another performance.
-possibly running one partner at a time and the other pupil acting as coach/motivator, giving time updates, checking progress, cheering and encouraging etc.

Structuring the lesson in this manner allows every pupil to develop a range of skills and to achieve success by beating their own personal best regardless of fitness levels.

The very fittest pupils should be encouraged to maximise their performance and be provided with clear opportunities to compete at a higher level through sports days and local / regional athletic meetings, as well as be given details of local athletic clubs so that their potential can be nurtured, while the PE department continue to develop all the qualities they will need if they are to become an elite athlete.

Therefore, we must set appropriate level of physical challenge in lessons for every pupil and a range of multi ability opportunities for them to develop so that every pupil enjoys the level of challenge and identities that progress is being made.

If personalised learning can be achieved, pupils enjoy PE, confidence levels increase and pupils seek to either:
-become involved in more recreational activity
– peruse more competitive sporting opportunities…

Which is where school sport and the links to local clubs comes into the equation.

Thoughts about school sport needs a whole new blog post. Watch this space!

Written on my phone so apologies for formatting and punctuation!


5 thoughts on “The debate is moving forward – #realpe

  1. Interesting. I fully agree with and support your position here but wonder how you reconcile it with the skill and performance centered assessment structures in the UK? I had to completely retool both how I was trained in Canada and my personal beliefs while I was teaching there. I am now in the IBMYP system and there is a very good balance between personal improvement, reflection, skill, inquiry etc.

    Would like to know how you balance your strong personal beliefs about PE and the restrictions of the ENC levels at KS2/3?


  2. I hate the word “sporty” it should be banned from the English language completely. When you ask a pupil do you think you are sporty? what element of their performance do you think that pupil will evaluate?

    Ask a pupil instead do you think you are good at PE? The responses to a teacher using good practice will then be relly informing.


    i'm good at pe because my social and personal skills are excellent however i'm currently trying to improve my physical skills.


  3. I really love the sound of your approach Simon, and am enjoying your blogs, if only my PE teachers had this outlook when I was younger! I can see so much potential coming from this. I know what questions I'm going to be asking the teachers of my children's current and futures schools. Annette


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