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How can PE help children manage their emotions?

Young children feel a range of emotions but often find it difficult to interpret, process or know how to express them. This can lead to challenging behaviour in class, it can also affect a child’s confidence and control, their sense of self and their resilience.

PE lessons and physical activities are valuable tools to help children learn how to manage their emotions. During PE lessons or sport, children can also learn how to set simple goals and see how they are making progress which builds their confidence in their abilities.

Here are seven ways you can use PE to help children learn how to understand and manage their emotions.

Using PE lessons to reduce stress

Endorphins are your body’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals. You produce them to block pain or stress, which puts you in a positive state of mind. Physical activity helps children to release stress hormones. Running around, throwing balls, jumping and skipping – any physical activity that makes children work hard and increases their heart rate in a safe and enjoyable environment gives children the chance to let off steam, release tension and flood their bodies with the happy chemical, endorphin.

Building social skills through PE 

PE, team sports and group activities help children learn how to work together, how to communicate effectively and help to develop their social skills. This can help build a sense of connection and belonging. Skills such as negotiation, co-operation, appreciating strengths of those around you, making positive contributions within a team, all build positive self esteem and empathy, allowing a better chance of coping with big emotions in a positive and confident way.

PE lessons can help to regulate emotions

Mindfulness activities such as yoga allow children to connect with their bodies and become more aware of how physical activity can affect their emotions. It can also help to calm their mind and regulate their emotions.

Building confidence through PE

Success – whether it is mastering a new skill, improving their own performance, achieving a goal or working as part of a team – can boost confidence and self-esteem by providing opportunities for children to experience a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Coping with challenges

Taking part in PE lessons, sports or physical activities often involves facing challenges and overcoming obstacles. Learning how to persevere increases resilience and makes a child better able to deal with and respond to wider life challenges.

Using PE to teach emotional intelligence

Sports and games provide opportunities to teach values such as sportsmanship, fair play and respect for others. Learning to manage emotions when taking part in a competition or event, and cooperating with others also helps children develop emotional intelligence.

Don’t forget to play

Having fun is so important, don’t forget to include time for play in the school day. As well as giving children a break from academic learning, play is an essential part of their development and supports emotional wellbeing whilst also contributing to a positive balanced mood.

Creating a warm, positive and inclusive environment where children feel safe and supported, is crucial to enabling children to learn and understand their own feelings and those of others. 

More information

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Leaders aren’t born, they’re made

We believe that with the right training and support, and by being given the opportunity, every child has the potential to be a leader. We also believe that PE lessons can be a valuable tool in helping children to develop leadership skills.

Why is it important for children to develop leadership skills?

Being a leader isn’t just about motivating a team on a pitch; children with strong leadership skills are more likely to be successful in other areas at school, within their chosen career and in personal relationships.

When children are given opportunities to lead, they learn to trust their judgment and make decisions. It helps a child to find their voice and build their confidence.

This confidence and self-belief is carried across into other areas of school and home life. Studies have shown that children with strong leadership skills tend to perform better academically as they are more engaged in their learning and are more likely to seek help when needed.

Leadership skills can also help children to develop important social-emotional skills such as teamwork, communication and conflict resolution. They learn how to work together to achieve a common goal and how to communicate effectively.

Using PE lessons to develop leadership skills

PE lessons provide a myriad of opportunities for pupils to take on leadership roles, to practise teamwork and collaboration, to support each other and resolve conflicts. Here are our top three tips on how to effectively use PE lessons to develop leadership skills in your pupils:

Incorporate different activity types – The flexible nature of PE lessons means you can incorporate different activities or challenges so children learn how to think critically and make decisions on the spot – how can you get a piece of equipment from one end of the room to the other? or what is the best way to defend against an opponent?

Assign roles – With warm-ups, cool-downs and team activities, there are a plethora of ways for pupils to take on a leadership role and for them to build their confidence in their ability to lead others. Other roles such as equipment monitors, team captain, timekeeper can develop a sense of collective responsibility and respect for others.

Provide training and support – creating a positive and supportive environment where children feel comfortable taking on a leadership role or practising their skills is vital. This includes giving children the right training so they develop the knowledge and the insight to be successful in the role. 

By encouraging children to be PE leaders, you are helping them to develop important life skills. They will also be positive role models promoting physical activity and encouraging their peers to join in, and they will create a more inclusive and positive environment for everyone.

More information:

Try Go Well’s Leadership Package – Children will learn the vital skills of leadership and access a programme of tasks to put those skills into action. They can gain awards throughout the year for tasks completed and hours volunteered. Get in touch to find out more.

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Boosting the quality of PE in your school

Ofsted’s latest report on the quality of PE in primary and secondary schools recognised the importance of PE for children in helping them to build a healthy, active lifestyle. However, it concluded that ‘many schools are failing to meet the breadth and depth of the national curriculum’ and that only a small number of schools have a clearly defined and broad PE curriculum.

What does this mean?

In its research, Ofsted found that schools were focused on providing activities and sports rather than looking at how they could develop the skills pupils need over time to achieve the ambitious goals of the National Curriculum.

If a school has a strong focus on a specific activity area or sport, its pupils are potentially missing out on opportunities to practise and refine their skills and build their competence and confidence, before moving on to more complex skills. It also highlighted that a large number of teachers were unable to identify these gaps and adapt content to help children to embed knowledge and competence.

Why is it important to have a clearly defined and broad PE curriculum?

By setting a clear objective, considering the needs and abilities of the class then choosing the most appropriate activities and sports, you can ensure all pupils are supported, have a positive experience of PE and the opportunity to achieve their goals. 

Putting in a plan where specific sports and activities work together and follow on from each other will also help your pupils to progress and develop their skills, understanding and experience as they move through the curriculum. Sequenced curriculums with clear intent are key.

What can you do to increase the breadth and depth of PE in your school?

Start off with reviewing your PE curriculum. Is it clear, comprehensive and well-defined? Does it meet the needs of the national curriculum? Is it well sequenced across a key stage? Does it allow the children to be continually developing key skills?

What is your plan for introducing different activities and sports? How will you do this and when? Is there a planned sequence that allows for development and progression as well as enabling pupils to experience different sports so they can find something they enjoy and do well in?

Are you providing opportunities for pupils to learn about the importance of being active and the wider benefits of PE?

You can make a start on developing PE in your school by working your way through these questions. However, given lack of confidence was cited as a reason why many schools weren’t achieving their potential when it came to PE, bringing in some external support could help to kick start the process. 

We can help

Trainee teachers receive just six hours of PE training. Additional professional development is therefore essential to ensuring pupils get to experience and enjoy high quality PE in your school. 

This is where Go Well can help. Gareth and Annalisa, our curriculum experts work with schools to help PE leads to develop a well-constructed, needs-driven curriculum that matches the aims of the national curriculum and supports pupils to lead healthy active lives.

We can audit your provision, work with you to develop a strategic plan, advise on implementation, look at your action planning and develop assessment opportunities. These sessions can be 1-2-1 or with small groups. 

It is our mission to inspire more children to lead active, healthy lives. We would be delighted to work with you to develop and enhance PE in your schools. Get in touch to talk about how we can help you move PE in your school forward.

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What does being a PE lead in a Primary School mean?

You are starting your first teaching job or have been assigned as PE lead for your school – what does being a PE lead mean and how can you make sure you do the best for your children and the school?

Being the PE lead means you have overall responsibility for the PE, school sport and physical activity (PESSPA) programme in your school. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will deliver every PE lesson or extra curricular activity, but  you will be responsible for the strategic planning and implementation of the school PESSPA offer. You will also be responsible for supporting staff to deliver a high quality curriculum, assessing children accurately and look at embedding physical activity opportunities into the school day.

What does a PE lead do?

One of your responsibilities will be to develop a broad and balanced curriculum that has a clear intent relative to the need of your children. Ensuring that all staff delivering PE lessons are aware of the long term plan and have access to training and support if required to deliver high quality lessons will be key. As a PE lead, your role may be much wider than the requirements of the curriculum – facilitating a well structured programme of physical activities, exercises and sports opportunities to encourage the physical development, fitness, health and wellbeing of children in the school. While the specifics of the role will vary between schools, here are the main areas that you may be responsible for:

  1. Developing and facilitating the schools PESSPA offer in accordance with national guidelines
  2. Working with other teachers to ensure physical education/activity is integrated into the broader school curriculum
  3. Providing professional development and training (directly or indirectly) to other teachers in the school to help them deliver high quality physical education
  4. Monitoring PESSPA sessions to ensure that they are appropriate for the age and ability level of the children
  5. Ensuring the school’s PESSPA programme is inclusive and accessible to all children, regardless of their abilities or background
  6. Organising a programme of extra curricular activities
  7. Developing inter and intra school competitions opportunities
  8. Introducing children to a variety of new activities and sports, widening their experiences
  9. Helping children understand why it is important to be active every day
  10. Developing a positive attitude towards physical activity and sports, and encouraging children to take part in exercise and sport regularly
  11. Managing a budget – identifying the best ways to spend the School Sport Premium funding to have the biggest impact

Being a PE lead is an immensely rewarding role and often is much bigger than people realise. You have the chance to make a significantly positive difference to the physical, social and mental health and wellbeing of the children in your care. If done well, this will have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of future generations.

You will have the opportunity to work with colleagues across the school as well as contacts within the local community.

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Six top tips to motivate children to be active every day

While as adults we may struggle to fit regular bouts of physical activity into our lives, children naturally have more energy and typically spend more time in physical activities such as playing and running around so it should follow that they are easily achieving the recommended 60 minutes daily activity goal. Sadly, this isn’t always the case.

Increases in technology and screen time (which can lead to children spending more time indoors), a reduction in time for PE or games in schools, a lack of safe and accessible places to play and fewer opportunities to be active in their community all mean less time moving around. 

Encouraging children to make physical activity a regular and usual part of their day is important for a number of reasons. It can help children maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity as they get older. It also helps with attention and concentration leading to improved behaviour in class and academic performance. 

Physical activity can improve a child’s quality of life – helping them to sleep better, feel better and be more independent. It helps to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood and self-esteem and provides opportunities to socialise and make friends.

Importantly, if you are regularly active as a child, you are more likely to be active as an adult. Supporting children to be active in childhood really does set them up for life.

How can you motivate children to be active?

Over the last decade, we have worked with hundreds of schools and thousands of children, sharing ideas and supporting children to move more every day. Here are our top six ideas:

  1. Lead by example: Children often look up to adults and are more likely to engage in physical activity if they see the adults around them being active.
  2. Make it fun: Children are more likely to be physically active if it is enjoyable for them. Incorporating games, challenges and other fun elements into your PE sessions can help motivate pupils to take part.
  3. Share details of sports clubs, teams or physical activity classes: Joining a sports team or going to a club can provide a structured environment for children to be active; it can also give them a sense of accomplishment.
  4. Provide positive reinforcement: Create a sense of achievement and reward children when they reach a goal. Setting small, achievable goals and praising them when they reach those goals can help build a sense of accomplishment and can motivate children to continue to being active. Use praise, stickers, or small prizes.
  5. Build on their interests: Children are more likely to be motivated to be active if the activity aligns with their interests. Ask your pupils what they enjoy doing and incorporate these into your PESSPA programme. You could also try running a ‘multi-sport taster session’ where they can try out different activities to discover new interests. 
  6. Vary what you do: Having a varied and vibrant PESSPA programme will prevent it from becoming tired and stale for your pupils and for you. Regularly refresh what you do – include a mix of traditional and more modern sports and games or incorporate challenges to keep children engaged and excited.  

We have a number of programmes that can help you to motivate your pupils. Our Personal Best Challenge and Active Ted will help encourage children to make being active part of their everyday life while you can use our Coaching Days to give pupils a taster of new sports and activities and help you to understand what appeals to your class and gets them moving.

Get in touch for a chat about how we can help motivate your pupils to move more.

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Don’t fear the call – tips to get your PE Ofsted ready

If your school has a strong PESSPA programme, your headteacher might put it forward for a ‘deep dive’ as part of the inspection visit. While this may cause a sharp intake of breath, you don’t need to be afraid. 

We have spent many years helping PE leads, teaching staff and head teachers prepare for Ofsted visits and reviewing PE in schools. Here are our top tips to make sure your PE, school sport and physical activity is Ofsted-ready whenever the phone call comes.

Have a long-term plan 

Set out your long-term vision for PE, school sport and physical activity within your school. This is a helpful tool to share with an Ofsted inspector and can help guide your discussions. 

Your plan is also extremely useful within your day-to-day work. It should be a working document, not something gathering dust on the shelf. Review it regularly and track your progress; make amendments as challenges or opportunities arise. This will show inspectors how you are actively monitoring your PESSPA and ensuring it is on track to achieve your vision.

When putting together your long-term plan make sure you involve all stakeholders – staff, children, parents, and governors. Be ready to talk about how you consulted and involved these groups and incorporated their suggestions and ideas. 

Some questions to answer when putting your plan together:

  • Why you have designed your curriculum in the way you have (what is it based on)?
  • How are you ensuring a broad and balanced curriculum?
  • How have you used the National Curriculum aims in planning your curriculum?
  • How does your curriculum meet the needs of different pupils – SEND, most able, disadvantaged?
  • What do you want children to know, understand and be able to do by the time they leave in Year 6 and why?
  • How does your curriculum link with your school’s values?

This vision will demonstrate clear ‘Intent’ and allow you to discuss this in a way that is bespoke to your individual school setting and your children’s needs. Being able to discuss how you construct your curriculum and why, what works well, how adaptable it is will show the “implementation” of your vision.

Chronicle staff development

Keeping your skills and knowledge up to date is important in ensuring your pupils enjoy high-quality progressive PE, as is making sure your colleagues are confident to deliver sessions independently. 

A staff and self-development plan is useful evidence for Ofsted and will mean your PESSPA continues to progress and improve. 

  • Undertake a skills audit of teaching staff in your school, identify what could be improved and how
  • Keep a record of what CPD you and your colleagues have received – this includes INSET training sessions, externally-led CPD, membership of organisations such as AfPE and reading their magazine.
  • Capture what difference training has made – both to teaching staff and to pupils.

Monitor the impact

You have a plan but how do you know if it is working? Regular reviews and assessments, formal and informal, will help you understand the impact your plan (and PESSPA) is having on your pupils.

You need to know where you are starting from and where you would like to get to. Don’t just collect data for the sake of it. Make sure it connects with your vision and will give you meaningful information on which you can base decisions.

  • Set a base, benchmarks for progression and a goal
  • How are lessons differentiated? Is this effective?
  • How do you monitor progression? When do you know that children are ready to move on?
  • How do your results compare to national averages?

Being able to discuss the ‘Impact’ of the curriculum and wider offer in place and evidence this is key.

Further help

We run bespoke training to help schools prepare for a deep dive into PE. Our PE specialists spend half a day working with the subject leader, either virtually or in school, to build confidence and prepare for PE to be an inspection focus. This support ranges from ensuring all paperwork is in place, analysing statistics, a mock Q&A following the trail of a child’s development within the subject or looking at how your PESSPA is impacting other curriculum areas.

We also offer a supportive visit to audit your PESSPA and identify areas for development. This service includes a one-day visit to your school from one of our Education Team who will talk with your subject leader, Head Teacher and children regarding PE and observe PE taking place. You’ll receive a report detailing the strengths of PE and areas for further development. Our PE Health Check can be used as evidence of Sport Premium impact. 

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How to choose an external partner for your PESSPA programme? 

People tell us that a lack of confidence is the biggest challenge they face when teaching PE. Trainee primary school teachers receive just six hours of PE training before embarking on their teaching career. Using external specialists or coaches can be the perfect solution. A good school sports specialist or coach will help build knowledge, understanding and, most importantly, confidence. To get the most from this kind of support, it is important that you find a delivery partner that works WITH you and helps you to reach your goals. 

Here are three things to consider when selecting a school sports partner or coach:

Set out what you want to achieve

What are your goals for PE, school sport and physical education (PESSPA) in your school? What support do you want your school sports provider or coach to provide? How will this support help you achieve your goal?

Be as specific as possible eg. I want to increase pupil activity levels across the whole school by introducing regular daily active bursts to make being active a normal part of everyday life. I need support to help my colleagues understand the importance of physical activity and how active bursts can support their non-PE lessons.

Knowing your goals will help you to choose the right partner, it will also help your partner understand where you are and where you want to get to. They will then be able to advise on the best approach or the best solution. You will also be able to keep track of how you are progressing towards your goal.

Evaluate the different options

You will likely find a number of different solutions to what you want to achieve. Take time to look at the provider/solution to understand the support that they can provide and how it will be delivered (eg online, face-to-face, mentoring, session delivery, idea sharing etc). Talk to schools that have used the provider previously. Check staff qualifications – how up-to-date are they with their training, for example.

Review the contract

Don’t get caught out by the small print. Make sure the contract outlines what service will be provided, who will be responsible for what, what does the sports provider/coach provide and what do you/the school need to make available? Check payment terms are in line with school/academy payment terms. What would happen if the provider/coach is unable to attend a session for some reason? 

Further information

Take a look at the services and support that we provide for schools

Guidance and advice on how to spend PE and Sport Premium for primary schools

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Is variety the answer to a lifelong love of being active?

Think back to your most successful PE lesson. The chances are it was when all children were engaged and involved, working together, supporting each other and having fun. Successful PE is when everyone takes part and learns something to aid their progress. 

Making sure all pupils have a positive experience of PE can sometimes be a challenge. Children who are good at sports can get frustrated with those less able, and those less skilled can resent being made to take part. 

Our enjoyment, or not, of PE can have a long-lasting impact on our lives. 

What difference does enjoying PE make? 

A report from Youth Sport Trust highlights that a positive experience of PE, school sport and physical activity at school lasts a lifetime. Parents who have happy memories of PE and school sport are more likely to be active as adults and encourage their children to be active. This is the latest in a long line of research looking into the long-term impact of PE at school. 

A study by Middlesex University also found that bad experiences of physical education at school can put some adults off exercise for decades. It also found that it can lead to some people experiencing ‘corporeal dissociation’ – a state of physical detachment which potentially results in adult inactivity and making particular life choices such as opting for sedentary jobs and hobbies. 

How can I ensure all children enjoy PE?

We are all different; finding out the kind of activities that your pupils enjoy will help you create a broad and balanced PESSPA programme that the whole class wants to take part in.

Letting children try out different sports and activities can significantly increase the chances of them finding something that they enjoy, succeed in and/or that interests them. Children who have good balance might realise they enjoy climbing, cycling, dance or gymnastics. Those with good hand-eye co-ordination could find they shine at games – frisbee, cricket or tennis, for example.

Including a variety of traditional and more modern sports and games will keep your children excited about moving. Trying out different activities means they can discover and develop new skills. It keeps them interested, stimulated and challenged too.

How can I add variety to my PE lessons?

Go back to basics. Look at your PE curriculum and make sure it includes different activities, sports and games that focus on developing different skills – running, jumping, throwing and catching, balancing, agility and co-ordination. 

Provide opportunities for children to have a go at both competitive and cooperative physical activities. 

You can also use external providers to boost your curriculum offer. Our Coaching Days can broaden children’s experiences of different sports and activities by providing exciting taster sessions in the chosen activity. This could spark a half-term of engagement in the activity on your playground or inspire pupils to join community clubs.

Providing a platform for children to realise their sporting potential in a safe environment will help them to remain active throughout their life. 

Further information

Get in touch to find out more about our Coaching Days

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Six Dimensions of Wellness – pt 6 Spiritual Wellness

What does being ‘well’ mean? Isn’t exercising regularly and eating healthily enough? Many health experts believe that true ‘wellness’ comes when several areas of our lives are in balance. Dr Hettler, who co-founded the National Wellness Institute, developed the six dimensions of wellness as a guide for us to use in order to achieve a whole and complete life. 

In this, our last blog on the six dimensions of wellness, we are looking at spiritual wellness.

What is spiritual wellness?

We all need a sense that life is meaningful and that it has a purpose. Spiritual wellness is our need for a connection to something greater than ourselves. For some people, spiritual wellness comes from taking part in an organised religion; for others, it is a connection with nature or the environment, whilst for others, it comes from their passion for their vocation. 

Many aspects are involved in achieving spiritual wellness – faith, beliefs, values, ethics, principles and morals. It is the most neglected of the six dimensions of wellness. However, a strong spirit is instrumental in helping us to keep going in the face of challenges. Spiritual wellness comes when you have found inner calm and peace.

When you achieve spiritual wellness, your actions will be more consistently in line with your beliefs and values, and you will be tolerant of others who hold different beliefs and values. 

What are the benefits of spiritual wellness?

As well as having a connection to the world around you, there are many benefits to being spiritually well including being able to:

  • Love and forgive others
  • Show compassion and tolerance
  • Experience joy and fulfillment

Five ways to achieve spiritual wellness:

  1. Volunteer in your community
  2. Identify what gives your life meaning and direction
  3. Make time for personal reflection or meditation each day
  4. Start a gratitude journal and intentionally give thanks each day
  5. Spend time outdoors 

Further information

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Why are Fundamental Movement Skills so fundamental?

Fundamental movement skills are the ‘building blocks’ for more complex and specialised skills that will help children take part in different activities, games and sports. The common fundamental movement skills are running, jumping, throwing, catching, skipping and hopping.

Fundamental movement skills are grouped into three broad categories:

  • Locomotion: Anything to do with movement – walking, hopping, running, swimming, skipping, jogging, running and so on in different directions.
  • Stabilisation: Skills that show how you can control your body – balancing, stretching, twisting, landing, bending, pivoting, hanging.
  • Manipulation: These are skills that involve moving something that isn’t attached to you – throwing, catching, pushing, pulling, bouncing.

Recent research has indicated that decreasing activity levels are impacting on children’s ability to develop these skills and that this will have an adverse effect on their long-term health and wellbeing.

Why is it important that children develop their fundamental movement skills?

As well as being the building blocks for more complex skills, if children develop a wide range of fundamental movement skills whilst they are young, it increases the likelihood that they will continue to take part in sports and activities as they get older. This means they are more likely to be active adults. They will also feel more confident in having a go at different sports and activities and their risk of injury will be substantially reduced.

So, developing robust fundamental movement skills (FMS) is crucial to ensuring lifelong healthy habits. However, all too often children can be pushed into playing sports before they have mastered their FMS. If a child has not yet developed FMS they will have difficulty in performing well and/or progressing in the sport which in turn, can put them off sport or exercise for the rest of their lives.

5 simple activities to develop fundamental movement skills

FMS aren’t naturally learned through free play. It can take hours of high-quality PE teaching, with appropriate practice, instruction and opportunity, for a child to become proficient in each FMS. Here are five simple activity ideas that you can use in your PE lessons to help your pupils develop their FMS:

Run or walk on uneven surfaces – running on different surfaces (grass, bark etc) strengthens muscles in the feet and legs and engages core stability for better balance. Try to travel in different directions, changing directions regularly.

Target practice – while children naturally begin to throw objects at around 18 months of age, these skills can be further encouraged and developed by providing targets. To progress this skill, remind children to point their finger and throw overhand as though they are high-fiving.

Activity trails such as Hop, Skip and Jump with a Kick at the end – lay a trail around the school grounds: skip over a pile of leaves, jump over a bench, hop from one point to another. Include a goal at the end where pupils need to kick a ball into the marked space before completing the activity trail.

Balancing activities – Try balancing on different body parts, taking body weight on hands and feet or other large body parts, for example front support or rear support positions. Ask children to get into front support and use their hands and feet to ‘walk’ along the edge of the playground. See how far they can go without falling over.

Use movement games such as Fast Cars – mark out a space/area in the school hall or playground. The children run around the space without bumping into each other (crashing their cars). Gradually reduce the size of the space so they learn how to control their speed and be able to stop, twist, turn and start again.