Schools give enough time but need to focus on a broad PE curriculum

Ofsted has today published a subject report looking at how physical education (PE) is being taught in England’s schools

The report draws on evidence from subject visits to a sample of primary and secondary schools.

Read the ‘Levelling the playing field: the physical education subject report’.

Only a small number of schools have a clearly defined and broad PE curriculum. Many schools do not match the ambition of the national curriculum. For example, in two thirds of the schools visited, dance is not taught to all pupils, or the dance content being taught is not well organised. And in three quarters of schools, outdoor adventurous activities are either not taught effectively or not taught at all. By comparison, nearly every school’s curriculum includes football.

Inspectors found that most schools schedule enough time in the week to teach PE. Most primary schools teach PE for 2 hours a week and around half of secondary schools allocate the same to all year groups. Football and other team sports are given most of that time, meaning other sports are often given significantly less curriculum time and content is rarely revisited over time.

Where the curriculum is stronger, schools prioritise the most appropriate physical activities to teach. These activities are selected because they enable pupils to learn essential subject-specific knowledge and reach ambitious end points.

The report also identified that all leaders in the sample valued PE, but teachers need more support in understanding how to use assessment to inform subsequent teaching.

His Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said:

"PE is so important for children to develop an understanding of how movement contributes to a healthy, active lifestyle. It’s great that most schools allow enough time for children to be physically active.

"I hope the findings in this report help schools develop their PE curriculum so all children get enough opportunities to experience a range of different activities."

The report has made a number of recommendations for how schools can ensure that all pupils receive a high-quality PE education, including:

  • Making sure that the PE curriculum matches the breadth and ambition of the national curriculum for all pupils by including dance and outdoor and adventurous activities, as well as team games such as football.

  • Making sure that the time in PE lessons is spent on developing pupils’ competence. Pupils should practise, refine and revisit previous content before learning new or more complex knowledge, so that they can secure the prior learning and, importantly, build their confidence.

  • Choosing the most appropriate physical activities and sports, so that all pupils are well supported to meet ambitious outcomes. By making sure that specific sports and physical activities are sequenced coherently to broaden pupils’ understanding from key stage 1 to key stage 4.

  • Supporting pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) effectively so that they can access an ambitious curriculum and achieve well. This includes ensuring that staff are well trained to provide precise support in different sports so that all pupils can meet clear and ambitious end points.