There is an opportunity to use physical activity and PE in schools to support other aspects of learning and development, beyond just physical health. This article explores the importance of physical education for young children, detailing its numerous benefits.
The benefits of sport and physical activity go far beyond the body. There is an increased acknowledgment and understanding that physical activities, from running alone, to team games and even free play, help to improve more than just movement skills and physical health. In young children, physical activities (from team sports, to drama and dance) support the development of personal skills and abilities such as confidence, communication, interpersonal skills, diplomacy, teamwork, and relationship building. Physical activity can also impact mental wellbeing, improve sleep and even behaviour.
This may be old news to some teachers, but many education structures still miss the opportunities to develop other key benefits.
As well as the mental and emotional benefits, studies show that physical activity in primary education helps classroom learning. One conclusion stated: “Teachers believed PE was beneficial as a vehicle for physical activity and positively impacted on learning and behaviour in the classroom.”
The physical benefits of PE classes in primary schools are well recognised. For example:
Physical education and activity also have benefits back in the classroom, supporting aspects of teaching:
Physical activity has a long list of psychological, developmental, and emotional benefits:
If a child struggles in their English or Maths lessons, they may be given additional support. But, what happens to a child that is struggling in PE? One member of the Premier Education team experienced this first hand.
“My wife’s experience is the perfect example of ‘the child who got left behind’ in PE. She wasn’t a fast runner, she couldn’t really catch or throw a ball, and was offered little technical input in order to improve.
“And so she began to dislike PE lessons because she felt she always let the team down or always came last in the race. Other kids teased her because of her ‘ineptitude at sport’.
“This early experience has had a profound impact on her life. Even until recently she was reluctant to try new activities for fear of not being able to do them. It was only when she found a dance class with a teacher who understood her fears, that this began to change. Today she has more confidence and is beginning to get out there and give things a go. It is a shame that there were so many lost years. We only hope our daughter’s experience is a better one.”
This story helps to illustrate our approach to physical education.
Prior to Covid-19, Premier Education is working with schools across the country, to help get children active. In some schools we focus on the less active and disengaged children, encouraging them to try new activities. We reassure them that it was not about ‘being the best’, but simply about having fun. This gives many children the chance to succeed. Parents and PE teachers involved enjoy helping these children develop confidence over time, helping them to thrive by framing physical activity in a new, non-competitive, non-sport-based way.
NHS guidance states that 5-18-year-olds should aim for an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a day across the week. They add that children should take part in a variety of types and intensities of physical activity, developing skills, muscles and bones.
In 2019, the UK Government committed to providing pupils with greater opportunity to access 60 minutes of sport and physical activity every day. This was part of the School Sport and Activity Action Plan which also recommended that 30 minutes of this be delivered during the school sport sessions.
This initiative came as a result of recent research that the majority of UK adults (including teachers) were “unaware of the amount of physical activity that children and young people should be doing every day.” It also found that “parents often over-estimate the amount of exercise their children are doing at school, and therefore under-estimate the amount of activity that they should be doing out of school hours.”
Since Physical Education in primary schools is not a core subject, teachers are given relatively little training or guidance on the subject unless they choose to specialise as physical education teachers. Many fully qualified primary school teachers receive only eight hours of training on PE during four years of teacher training.
The national curriculum guidance for KS1 and KS2 teachers for PE is less than 500 words. Guidance for English is 88 pages. This places undue pressure on primary school teachers who are expected to teach PE lessons every week.
A number of our partner schools choose to utilise Premier Education’s sport sessions as an opportunity for ongoing professional development, encouraging their teaching staff to observe physical education sessions. This increases staff confidence, and improves their ability to teach children a variety of different sports.
For physical education teachers with little time or interest in professional development, our coaching programmes comply with national standards, giving time back to teachers during the working day, whilst offering kids the opportunity for safe practice of sports.
Key stage 1 is for ages 5-7
Key stage 1
Pupils should be taught to:
This is followed by key stage 2, relevant for 7-11 year olds.
Preceding secondary school, pupils should be taught to:
There are lots of different ways to engage children, and deliver the wider benefits of physical education within the KS1 and KS2 curriculums.
Premier Education delivers a wide range of activities for primary schools including before/after-school activities. Consider how activities like those we deliver could help you and your school reimagine PE.
Here at Premier Education, we support the specific curriculum intent of our partner schools, while synchronising with the National Curriculum purpose and aims for PE. Key to the overarching curriculum design will be a range of opportunities to support child development in being creative, confident, and caring. This aligns with a high-quality, inspiring PE curriculum that builds character and an understanding of fairness and respect.