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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.

More information

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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 encourage children to be active

It was disheartening to read that just 53% of six-year-olds are doing 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. The figures for girls are even worse – fewer than half of six-year-old girls meet this target.

The Chief Medical Officers recommend that children are physically active for on average 60 minutes per day across the week. Being active every day provides a foundation for a healthier and happier life. Regular strength and balance activities are as important as cardiovascular activities. Being strong makes all movement easier and increases our ability to perform regular daily tasks. 

This 60 minutes doesn’t need (and shouldn’t) all be achieved at school. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity in school (Active 30) and encourage your pupils to be active for a further 30 minutes outside of school This approach means being active becomes part of daily life.

Though it is important for children to minimise the amount of time spent sitting or being sedentary – long periods of not moving should be broken up with at least light physical activity. And children should also take part in a variety of different types of physical activity. This helps to develop movement skills, muscular fitness and bone strength.

What does moderate to vigorous physical activity mean?

Being active in any way provides health benefits however the more intense this activity is, the bigger the benefits for the same amount of time. As the intensity of the activity increases our heart rate, breathing rate and energy consumption increase further.

To understand if an activity is moderate or vigorous, try the ‘talk test’ – if you can talk but not sing whilst doing the activity, it is a moderate-intensity activity. If you have difficulty talking without pausing, this means it is a vigorous activity.

Moderate activities include walking and cycling. Vigorous activities include playing football, dancing or skipping. Sprinting, weightlifting, and press-ups are classed as very vigorous activities. 

What can I do to encourage children to be more active?

As we head into the autumn and winter, with darker nights and colder weather, it can be more challenging to be active every day. Here are five ideas to support and encourage children to move more:

  1. Active travel – encourage pupils to walk, scoot or bike to school (the first week in October is Cycle to School Week). This is an easy way to incorporate more activity into the standard day.
  2. Go for a swim, play football, dance, climb – many pools have fun or social swimming sessions and there are multiple sports clubs and groups in your community, share details of these with your classes or put posters up on your PE noticeboard. 
  3. 10 minute shake-up – Start the day with a Change for Life 10 minute shake-up game or encourage pupils add it to their day when they get home from school. 
  4. Take part in our 10th anniversary Deathlon – try out 10 different sports or activities over the course of a month, spending at least 30 minutes on each activity.
  5. Introduce active bursts – break up the school day with bursts of activity (before lessons, during lessons, at the end of lessons…). We created Fit for Life to give schools everything you need to make being active part of the whole school day.

Remember, you don’t have to start big. Small changes can make a big difference over time. Help children to gradually increase their activity levels so it becomes something sustainable rather than setting up plans and goals that no one will stick to or reach.

You always feel better for being active. We want as many people as possible to protect their future health and start their journey to a healthier life now.

More information on encouraging physical activity:

6 ways to integrate physical activity into the school day

Active Ted can help schools and parents achieve Active 30:30

The benefits of having PESSPA at the heart of the school

Chief Medical Officers Physical Activity Guidelines

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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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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.