Physical education (PE) is a critical part of the curriculum for many pupils, as it may be their only exposure to structured, safe movement and health-related knowledge. PE plays a role in challenging misconceptions and inequalities that may limit participation. While physical activity levels have rebounded post-pandemic, disparities persist based on ethnicity, gender, and affluence. The report analyses PE in 50 schools, distinguishing strengths and areas for improvement. PE is mandatory from Year 1 to the end of key stage 4, with roots in the early years foundation stage (EYFS). While academies have certain curriculum flexibilities, the essence remains the same. Despite the emphasis, many pupils don't feel competent in PE.
Since 2012, policy changes have influenced PE, yet a national survey showed only 56% of primary teachers felt confident teaching PE. This report identifies three forms of knowledge essential in PE: motor competence, rules and strategies, and healthy participation.
Key findings include:
- Most schools allocate sufficient time for a comprehensive PE curriculum.
- In strong curriculums, specific activities are prioritised for essential knowledge acquisition.
- Clear verbal explanations are common, with strong recall in areas taught effectively.
- Pupils with special needs achieve well in over half of the schools due to clearly defined goals and well-trained staff.
- Assessment in PE is well-designed in a few schools, aligning with clear objectives.
- Many curriculums intend to offer a wide range of sports, but often lack coherence.
- Many schools fall short of the national curriculum's ambition, especially in areas like dance and outdoor activities.
- Swimming achievement is mixed due to transport costs, pool access, and COVID-19 challenges.
- PE lessons in secondary schools often lack rigour and depth.
- Extracurricular activities are broad, but monitoring is limited, questioning their inclusivity.
The report concludes that while many schools recognise the importance of high-quality PE, there are significant gaps. Schools should ensure their curriculum matches the national standard's ambition, focusing on competence development, supporting students with special needs, and using assessment data for future planning.
For the full report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/subject-report-series-pe/levelling-the-playing-field-the-physical-education-subject-report#primary-findings