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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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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 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.