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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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PE – more than keeping fit

Do you find PE, school sport and physical activity generally come off ‘second best’ at your school? Lessons or activities are cancelled to make way for school photo shoots, plays, exams or tests…

While many people understand the benefits of being active in terms of our physical health, less well understood are the wider benefits and how PESSPA can be used to help children to develop key skills and values. These wide-ranging benefits are often overlooked and there are few schools that capitalise on the full potential that PE offers as an educational tool.

What are the wider benefits of PE?

A subject frequently dominated by traditional sports such as football, netball and athletics; teams and fixtures, there can be a limited understanding amongst the school staff team as to the wider benefits of PE.

PE can support all-round development, from intellectual to emotional. Children learn how to negotiate, collaborate, compromise, make decisions, lead and communicate. PESSPA also supports resilience and determination. 

How to overcome challenges, plan, set goals, adapt, assess and manage risks can all be learned, developed and practised through PE.

3 ways to use physical activity to support personal development 

Here are three activities that you can use to support personal development in your school:

Teamwork, collaboration and leadership: Divide the class into groups and give each group the task of creating their own game, physical activity routine or exercise session. As well as working together to decide on the structure of the game or activity, they would need to decide on rules, what equipment is needed and plan how they will explain and deliver the session. 

Empathy and kindness: Have the group form a circle (or two circles if a large group), players must pass the ball across the group to someone. The person throwing the ball must say something kind about the person they are throwing to. Everyone must be passed the ball and the ball must continue to move so there is limited time to think. 

Self-motivation, determination and resilience: Set a series of short challenges or activities eg squats, burpees, lunges, torso twists. Start a timer and each child counts how many of each activity they can do in 3 minutes. They record their results and repeat the challenges weekly to see if they can perform more repetitions in the 3 minutes. 

Further information

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Could gamification help more children be active?

As teachers and coaches, we are always looking for new ways to engage children in learning and activity. How and the way we teach is constantly evolving, even in PE. 

While we don’t want to jump on to every new bandwagon that comes along, there are some trends that are worth exploring further, such as gamification.

What is gamification and how does it work in PE?

Rest assured, it isn’t about sitting playing video games! Gamification is an educational approach that looks to motivate students by harnessing the elements of video games that make these games so engaging, and applying them to learning. The intention is to capture interest and inspire children to get involved.

Some children thrive on traditional games such as football, netball or cricket, but there are many who struggle to enjoy PE or physical activity. Gamification could be a way to capture their interest and inspire them to be active.

How can gamification of PE lessons help your students?

Children are spending increasing amounts of time gaming. Rather than competing with this, incorporating elements of video games into your PE lessons and physical activities can help make these sessions relatable, it can help your pupils make connections. They are also more likely to get excited about something that replicates an area of their life that they enjoy. 

Studies have shown that gamification can greatly increase motivation and engagement. It can reduce disruptive behaviour and encourage children and adolescents to be more active.

How can you introduce gamification into PE and physical activities?

Setting a challenge where players (pupils) need to make choices to overcome the challenge, collecting items, exploring, achieving mini-goals, these are all ways to introduce gamification into your lesson. 

At the simplest level, gamification includes games such as throwing bean bags at a target or ‘tag’ running games. For a game to feel satisfying it needs some sort of challenge – a goal or objective. More complex games could have players constantly re-evaluating the best choice for any given situation or basing activities on popular video games such as the Marvel universe of superheroes.

A great example is our exciting new PE Escape Room coaching day. During the event, children will need to solve mental and physical puzzles to be freed.

Adding tech to PE and physical activity

Tech aimed at exciting pupils and encouraging them to be active is another way to introduce gamification to your lessons. 

Wearables, smart technologies etc can provide new opportunities to keep children engaged. Our new OAA activities and Wellbeing Walks incorporate dynamic QR codes. When scanned, these codes will unlock an additional piece of information, a task or an activity for children to complete.

Gamification can be an exciting way to reimagine physical education in a post-pandemic world and could help support and encourage more young people to lead healthy and active lifestyles.

Get in touch to find out more about how our programmes can help engage even the most reluctant of pupils in PE and physical activity. 

More information

Research: Exploring the benefits of using gamification and videogames for physical exercise

TES article: Can video games help to boost PE engagement?

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Why should PE be a core subject?

Think back to 2012; what comes to mind? The chances are it’s the London Olympics. The last time we had held the Games before this was in 1948. It really was something to celebrate – remember Super Saturday? It seemed that the whole country had gone sport crazy.

Conversely, 2012 is also the year that funding for school PE was slashed. Worried about the future of PE and the pressures teachers were facing, we set up a social enterprise to work with schools to help inspire children and to build healthy active futures. 

It was a really tricky time, but we survived. In fact, our service grew and we now work with schools across England, helping to engage thousands of pupils in sport and physical activity every year.

Fast forward ten years; we’re celebrating our 10th birthday; the House of Lords has recommended that PE becomes a core subject in its National Plan for Sport and Recreation and former children’s minister, Edward Timpson has led a Westminster Hall debate on the subject. 

How times have changed!

Physical education is just as important as any other school subject

We firmly believe that PE should have the same status in schools as English, Maths and Science. Why? 

High-quality PE is more than ‘just playing games or running around’. It impacts on a child’s physical, moral, social, emotional, cultural and intellectual development. While it can be a stress-reliever and provide respite from classroom-based learning, it also provides pupils with meaningful learning experiences. 

PE squeezed from the curriculum

Department for Education guidance recommends that schools provide pupils with a minimum of two hours PE per week. However, as this is only a recommendation. It is up to schools to determine how much time should be spent teaching PE. This means we often see PE being squeezed from the curriculum. Pressures on schools to hit academic targets means that PE can be marginalised for additional Maths and English support and PE space is often compromised and made inaccessible for school plays, exams etc. 

The many benefits of high-quality PE

Elevating PE to core subject status would increase appreciation of the subject, ensuring it is valued as much as reading, writing and maths. Another benefit from regular high-quality PE lessons is that it helps children to develop an interest in being active, which is essential for ensuring long-term active lifestyles, which in turn will reduce the burden on the NHS.

Alongside these, there is evidence that regular physical activity raises academic performance as following a bout of physical activity you are more alert and open to learning new things, problem solving and retaining information. 

Looking to the future

We are delighted to be celebrating our 10th birthday and are so thankful to all the schools we have worked with over the past decade for putting their trust in us. While no one can predict the future, we are hopeful that the importance of PE and the need to help children to build healthy active futures will continue to grow. 

One thing we can say for certain is that we will remain committed to creating and delivering innovative educational programmes that improve wellness and inspire children to be more active more often.

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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.

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What is the best way to teach PE?

There is no one perfect way to teach PE. Your lessons should incorporate different learning styles that help stretch and support pupils. You need to be able to provide challenge and progression at an appropriate level for the individual.

How can you support and challenge all pupils within one PE lesson?

You have a class full of individuals all of whom will be at different stages in skill development and understanding, so how can you ensure there is differentiation in your lesson?

There are many different teaching styles – from ‘command’ to ‘inclusion’ to ‘guided discovery’. In fact, Mosston and Ashworth identified 11 different teaching styles for teaching physical education. Their Spectrum of teaching styles is a flexible framework of approaches to help teachers meet the needs and interests of each pupil. This framework can help you to differentiate how instructions are given and modify the curriculum to meet different educational goals.

The framework forms a continuum based on the degree to which the teacher or pupil assumes responsibility for what is taking place. At one extreme, the teacher is giving all instruction and direction, and at the other end is a pupil-centred approach and the teacher is a facilitator.

There is no single perfect teaching style. To provide a progressive experience, you can incorporate more than one style in each PE lesson. Doing so will mean you can best accommodate diverse learning styles and meet specific learning goals.

The 11 teaching styles for PE

A: Command
This is where you, as the teacher, make all the directions and decisions. Pupils copy and comply with decisions and instructions.
Good for: Copying practice. When time is short and/or safety is paramount

B: Practice
You demonstrate the task/activity. Your pupils practice the task, working at their own pace. You provide feedback to each pupil.
Good for: Repeating and improving performance

C: Reciprocal
Pupils work together in small groups on a skill/activity and provide feedback to each other. You circulate amongst your class giving groups pointers for areas for feedback.
Good for: Performing and peer assessing

D: Self-check
You demonstrate the activity/skill and set the criteria for success. Pupils work individually on the task/activity/skill and reflect on their own performance.
Good for: Self-assessing and evaluation

E: Inclusion
You set a variety of tasks/activities at different levels of difficulty. Pupils select which task or activity is most appropriate for their abilities and/or motivations.
Good for: Making choices, understanding capabilities, challenging oneself

F: Self-guided discovery
Using questions and tasks/activities, you gradually direct your pupils towards a pre-determined learning target or solution to a problem.
Good for: ‘Uncovering’ – questioning, problem solving, developing tactical thinking

G: Convergent discovery
You set a challenge or problem and your pupils try to find the best solution.
Good for: Finding out, discovery

H: Divergent discovery
You set a challenge that has multiple possible solutions and when the problem is solved, another problem arises that needs to be solved.
Good for: teaching tactics, creativity

I: Learner designed
As pupils develop their knowledge and understanding, you set an area of focus and pupils set their own challenges and try to find solutions, working with you.
Good for: Independent thinking and learning, initiating

J: Learner initiated
Your pupils decide what to focus on and what challenges to solve. They can ask questions of you and draw on your support as needed.
Good for: Decision making

K: Self-teach
Pupils take full responsibility for their own learning and the learning process.
Good for: Self-development, self-determination

Further information

Mosston & Ashworth – Teaching Physical Education

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Six Dimensions of Wellness – pt 2: Emotional Wellness

It is International Stress Awareness Week and therefore, a very relevant moment to return to the Six Dimensions of Wellness.

A number of studies over the past year (since lockdowns began) have noted that people are experiencing significantly more stress, anxiety and depression. Women and young people have been found to be the most affected.

Understanding wellness and the different elements of our lifestyle that contribute to it, will help you make healthy choices each day and support your pupils to do the same.

Six areas, or ‘dimensions’, make up overall wellness – physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional and occupational – these complement each other to provide a well-balanced, vital and prosperous life.

What is ‘emotional wellness’?

In our first blog we looked at physical wellness – eating well, sleeping well and exercising regularly. In this blog, we will explore emotional wellness; the awareness of, and the acceptance of a wide range of feelings in yourself.

We all experience emotions. Successful emotional wellness is your ability to recognise, accept and manage your feelings. To do this, we need to reflect on how we feel, accept these feelings rather than deny them and know when to ask for help.

Being aware of and understanding your emotions and also respecting how other people feel is crucial to being ‘emotionally well’. This empathy and understanding will help you to develop relationships with other people that are based on a foundation of trust and respect. You will be able to take on challenges, take risks and recognise that conflict can be healthy.

Emotional wellness follows these two principles:

  • It is better to be aware of and accept our feelings than to deny them.
  • It is better to have a positive, rather than a pessimistic, approach to situations and challenges.

How can you support your pupils to develop emotional wellness?

Teach healthy ways to relieve stress.

  • Take a deep breath – stress often causes us to take short shallow breaths. Take a moment to slow down and breathe in through your nose and slowly exhale through your mouth as you count to 10.
  • Find a friend – a good way to beat loneliness, sadness or boredom (all of which make us stressed) is to be with someone else.
  • Talk about it – bottled up emotions cause stress. Sharing how you feel with someone else can help clear your mind. Make sure your pupils know who they can go to if they need to talk; either a teacher or teaching assistant, or maybe a nominated buddy in an older class.

Teach children that positive thoughts can make a difference.

Approaching a challenge or problem with a positive mindset means you think the best is going to happen, not the worst. What can we do to help develop a positive attitude?

  • Surround ourselves with positive people – negative people can increase our stress levels and make us doubt our ability. Make sure we have positive, supportive people who we can depend on for helpful feedback and advice in our lives.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle – exercise positively affects our mood and reduces stress. Aim to exercise for about 60 minutes a day, this can be broken up into shorter chunks e.g. 6 lots of 10 minutes each day.
  • Practice positive self-talk – here are some examples of how to change the language we use:
    • I’ve never done it before / This is the chance to learn something new
    • It’s too complicated / I’ll try looking at it a new way
    • This won’t work / I can give it a go and see if it will work
    • It’s too difficult / I will try
    • No one talks to me / I will talk to them
    • I’m not going to get better at this / I will try again

Include social and emotional learning in your teaching.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) aims to improve how pupils make decisions, interact with others and manage their emotions. SEL helps children to:

  • Identify and manage their feelings and behaviour and reach out for help where necessary
  • Build and manage healthy relationships
  • Have self-control
  • Resolve conflict
  • Be self-aware
  • Handle and overcome difficulties
  • Make good decisions
  • Build resilience, self-esteem and confidence
  • Think positively about themselves and how they perceive the world around them
  • Recognise and prevent poor mental health

Further information

Read our last blog on Physical Wellness

You can find out more about the Six Dimensions of Wellness from the National Wellness Institute

See the Education Endowment Fund for examples of social and emotional learning interventions

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What makes a great coach or PE leader?

A UK Active poll has found that children are more inspired to be active by primary school teachers than professional athletes. School staff play a vital role in encouraging and supporting children to be active. So how can you make sure you are a positive role model for your pupils?

Teachers and coaches alike, bring a range of qualities, experiences and skills to the sports hall which makes for creative and fun sessions. There are five common attributes that make for a great coach:

  1. Communication skills – being able to communicate effectively with your pupils, to understand their needs and provide constructive feedback is key in helping them to improve. Giving one message at a time and demonstrating what you are asking of them, will help pupils understand what they need to do to develop.
  2. Ability to plan and organise – thinking ahead, making use of online resources or programmes created by partners such as Go Well can make PE sessions much more fulfilling for both teachers and pupils. Plan the detail of your session, consider all eventualities and how you will achieve your desired outcome. Having multiple practice areas or games areas will reduce the time pupils spend waiting or standing around in queues; this is when they get bored and you end up dealing with poor behaviour rather than delivering the lesson. Think maximal participation at all times!
  3. Ability to create a safe environment – some children may struggle with some activities or actions; ensuring they feel confident and able to have a go is crucial to building their confidence. Sometimes too much emphasis can be put on correctly performing a movement or on winning; knowing it is ok to try and not succeed immediately is vital to helping children to grow and learn to be resilient.
  4. Being open minded – what has worked for one class may not work for another. A child may struggle to respond to a particular coaching style. Being open minded, changing your approach and trying new tactics to engage individuals is one of the most important attributes of a great coach.
  5. Creativity – doing the same session each week with no deviation will turn off the keenest of pupils. If you are short of ideas, ask your class. Sharing ideas will empower children, build confidence and a sense of ownership. Allow children to be creative during activity sessions too.

Further information:

UK Coaching has more guidance and resources to help you develop your coaching and sport leadership skills.

We have a wide range of programmes and support to help you deliver creative and inspiring PESSPA sessions.

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How can a PE Apprentice help your school?

A PE Apprenticeship is an ideal way for a young person to take their first steps in a sports and coaching career. It provides them with an opportunity to get real responsibility, real on the job experience and a real accreditation.

For schools, aside from an extra pair of hands, a PE Apprentice can be a great addition to your staff team. Our Sports and PE Apprentices can provide your pupils with more opportunities to be physically active during the school day.

Enthusiastic, willing to get stuck in and keen to start a sports career, our apprentices can help drive forward PE in your school, giving you greater capacity and providing your pupils with additional support, direction and feedback. They can also be a fantastic role model.

Getting the most from your apprentice

To ensure you and your PE Apprentice get the most from your time together, we recommend:

Giving your apprentice clear direction – what do you expect from them? What is their role within the class? Do you want them to support an individual or do you want them to set up equipment for a lesson?

Involving them in the planning – our sports apprentices are with you to learn, so involve them in planning your school sports lessons and physical activity sessions, encourage them to share their ideas. Invite them to join staff meetings and training so they get a broader understanding of what working in a school involves.

Giving them responsibility – is there something that they can be responsible for when they start working with you? How can this responsibility be developed as they progress? Allow them to take some initiative and remember to give feedback so they can learn and develop.

Training them – are there particular playground games or activities that your pupils enjoy? Offer them opportunities to take part in CPD sessions and to then share their learnings with teachers across the school. Do you use other external coaches for your PESSPA or after-school clubs? If so, involve your apprentice with these sessions to expand their knowledge and experience.

Involving them in activity delivery as much as possible – the more interaction they have with children, the better. They can assist with Active 30 activities, support SSOC’s, play leaders, school teams and assist other teachers within the school, the list is endless.

Finally, remember to nurture your PE Apprentice. Look after them well and they can be a huge asset for your school. Make sure that they know who their mentor is, that you check in with them regularly, set them clear targets and explain tasks set and exactly what is expected of them. Hold regular meetings to review progress and provide an opportunity for them to feedback and ask questions.

Find out more about employing a PE and Sport Apprentice within your school.

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4 ways to ensure you get the most from your PE Premium Funding

The deadline for spending Primary PE and Sport Premium funding carried over from last academic year (2019-20) is the end of this summer term (2021).

This ringfenced funding is designed to help give children an active start in life by supporting schools to improve the quality of their PE, physical activity and sport provision. Being active helps children to become mentally and physically healthier and leads to improved behaviour and academic achievement.

With so many tools, techniques, resources and support available, it can be difficult to decide where best to invest the funding. Here are four ways to ensure you and your pupils get the most from the grant.

Carry out an audit

Look at the whole-school PESSPA offer – what do you offer each year group and how is it delivered? This includes auditing staff competence and confidence, identifying what activities are taught well and those that aren’t. The Youth Sports Trust has a very useful audit tool to help you do this.

You can use your PE and Sport Premium funding to invest in staff CPD including auditing your provision and staff competency.

Create your vision – what you want you want your school PESSPA to look like?

Be ambitious about what you want your PESSPA to look like. What are the strengths and what can you build on and develop? Include your PE and physical activity day-to-day offer and children and staff attitudes to PESSPA. How valued is the subject and how embedded is it across the whole school?

Consider what your short and long-term aims are. Does your ambition require a culture change or just a few tweaks? What steps do you need to put in place to get there? Think about what you want the legacy of your Sport Premium to be. How far have you come since the introduction of the funding? Consider what you have achieved so far and how far you have to go to achieve your goal. What are the best next steps to move you forward?

A legacy could be to have a highly skilled team. Funding can be used to support your colleagues to develop skills in a new area such as outdoor learning or to address whole-school motivations and relationships with physical activity. Or you can use it to access external support to enhance the quality of your programmes.

Identify what you need to focus on

Be really honest about where you are and what you need to focus on. As well as thinking about what you want to develop, remember to consider what your children need. How can you embed this? Be ambitious with your ideas and then look realistically at the steps that need to be taken to get there.

Involve children in shaping your PESSPA programme. It is an opportunity to engage children in activities that may not have been part of your PE curriculum but would help develop fundamental skills.

5 key indicators – are they all equal?

Do you really need to focus on all 5 key indicators, or would it be better for your pupils to address one of them really well? Is there anything within your school improvement plan that you can link your activities to? Look at how your PESSPA offer supports academic attainment or behaviour and social development – raising the expectations around behaviour and attitudes of particular groups of children.

You can use your funding to embed successful physically active learning approaches and programmes that support areas such as behaviour or developing an active curriculum.

Go Well has an extensive PESSPA support programme, from in-school training and delivery to activity packages that will help you and your teams improve the quality of PE within the school and support more children to develop an active lifestyle.