Learning to Teach Primary PE


Ian Pickup, Lawry Price, Julie Shaughnessy, Jon Spence & Maxine Trace

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    About the Authors

    Ian Pickup

    Ian Pickup is currently Director of Sport and Wellbeing at Roehampton University, having previously been Principal Lecturer and Subject Leader in physical education. Before joining Roehampton, Ian taught in secondary and primary schools, and within further education, worked as a development officer for the Rugby Football Union and played professional rugby. Ian is currently conducting research into the physical self-perception of trainee teachers and is a partner within an EU-funded project focusing on physical education in the early years. He has recently published Teaching Physical Education in the Primary School: A Developmental Approach (Continuum; with Lawry Price) and was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy in 2007.

    Lawry Price

    Lawry Price is Assistant Dean (Learning and Teaching) and Principal Lecturer in Physical Education in the School of Education at Roehampton University. He has co- and single-authored four publications in the field of physical education and presented research papers at both national and international conferences. This collaboration brings to bear the expertise of a team of colleagues committed to a developmental approach to teaching the subject of physical education in primary schools, a personal philosophy that has underpinned 30 years of practice and teaching the subject across all age groups from toddlers to octogenarians.

    Julie Shaughnessy

    Julie Shaughnessy is EdD Programme Director and a Principal Lecturer in the School of Education at Roehampton University. At Roehampton she has developed a range of courses and resources for primary physical education to support initial teacher education and continuing professional development.

    Jon Spence

    Jon Spence has over 20 years' experience as a teacher, mentor and lecturer working in a variety of schools, sixth form colleges and in higher education. Jon is currently Enterprise Manager of the Roehampton Consortium, a tutor on the National Continuing Professional Development programme and Regional Coordinator for Physical Education Initial Teacher Training in London and the South East. A passionate physical educationalist Jon's particular research interest, and the focus of his PhD, is the importance of teamwork and the ways in which it can be developed to improve performance.

    Maxine Trace

    Maxine Trace spent six years employed as a classroom teacher and Physical Education Subject Leader in a south west London primary school before starting work as a Senior Lecturer in Physical Education in the School of Education at Roehampton University. Maxine teaches both BA and PGCE primary physical education modules for subject specialists and generalist trainees, and a separate course for Return to Teaching students. Part of her role is also dedicated to supervising students' block school experience across the academic year and to providing CPD opportunities to schools in neighbouring local authorities. Maxine co-authored and presented a paper at Roehampton's ROERCE 2 conference in December 2005 and has had work published in the British Journal of Teaching Physical Education (BJTPE) (Spring 2006, Vol. 37, No.10).


    It is not the first intention of this book to inform you about how to teach physical education successfully to primary aged children. However, it is an aim for all readers to be encouraged in the pursuit of teaching the subject effectively, with enthusiasm, and with an ever developing understanding of the subject's worth and place in the primary curriculum. To this end therefore we address the content of this book to all practising teachers, be they at the very beginning of their career working towards Qualified Teacher Status, or those who aspire to attain Excellent Teacher or to become Advanced Skills Teachers — the premise being that there is always more we can learn about doing the job better.

    The team of writers who have contributed to the contents of this book hold firm to the principles embedded within teaching physical education developmentally. The provision of physical learning experiences that are conducive to the growth and development of the individual child is key to this and that is why an advocacy for a model of professional practice which is based on personal reflection and self-appraisal is the central theme of the book. We have therefore intentionally included practical and reflective tasks to complete that facilitate this growth in professional practice, by identifying specific teaching characteristics which underpin the ‘good practice’ examples throughout each chapter.

    Each chapter makes a significant contribution to helping support the key objectives of providing quality physical education learning. Chapter 1 sets a context for the subject and highlights the benefits of learning in physical education for children and crucially too for teachers. Chapter 2 provides a seam of potential physical education content from which effective planning, teaching and assessment can ensure a rich learning experience for the children in our charge. Chapter 3 addresses the structure and function of the Professional Standards for Teachers, how they relate directly to physical education, and how evidence can be accumulated to meet such requirements. Chapter 4 looks at contemporary debate, research and issues within primary physical education including references to the Primary National Strategy, Excellence and Enjoyment and the Every Child Matters agendas. In Chapter 5 the importance of health and safety considerations is fully addressed with guidelines for good practice included, and throughout there are references to support teaching and learning in physical education for the primary age phase.

    We hope you will enjoy reading the contents of this book, at whatever stage in your teaching career you find yourself. Our wish is that this book makes a contribution of marked quality to the profession generally, but most of all that is significant in supporting those who value and identify with the medium of learning through the physical domain as a key to unlocking children's natural enthusiasms and motivations. Please, above all else, enjoy — which might reflect most accurately what we want our children to get out of their own physical education experiences.

    March 2008
  • Appendix: Professional Standards for QTS: Examples of Trainee Practice in Physical Education

    1. PROFESSIONAL ATTRIBUTESExample of trainee practice in physical education
    Q1. Have high expectations of children and young people and a commitment to ensuring that they can achieve their full educational potential and to establishing fair, respectful, trusting, supportive and constructive relationships with them.A trainee volunteers to accompany his Key Stage 2 class on a residential Outdoor Adventurous Activities trip. He works alongside the subject leader, class teacher and centre staff and parents to clarify expectations for children's learning during this trip and uses the experience to develop trusting, supportive and constructive relationships with the children.
    Q2. Demonstrate the positive values, attitudes and behaviour they expect from children and young people.A trainee shows enthusiasm by changing into PE kit for lessons and ensures that learning is at the heart of every PE lesson through detailed planning.
    Q3. (a) Be aware of the professional duties of teachers and the statutory framework within which they work. (b) Be aware of the policies and practices of the workloads and share in collective responsibility for their implementation.A trainee meets with the PE subject leader to clarify the PE Health and Safety Policy. She is especially concerned with teaching off-site (games activities are usually taught in the local park) and after reading current recommendations (BAALPE), carries out a risk assessment for the upcoming block of work.
    Q4. Communicate effectively with children, young people, colleagues, parents and carers.After speaking with the headteacher, a trainee uses the school intranet website to celebrate the work of his Year 4 class during the spring term. Examples of pupils' peer-assessments are uploaded to the site and shared with colleagues who use the information to inform future planning.
    Q5. Recognise and respect the contribution that colleagues, parents and carers can make to the development and well-being of children and young people and to raising their levels of attainment.A trainee asks parents and carers to suggest ideas and materials that could be used as starting points for dance activities during the autumn term. At the end of the unit of work, the same parents and carers are invited into school to celebrate the achievements of their children.
    Q6. Have a commitment to collaboration and cooperative working.During teaching practice, a trainee works as part of the whole-school team to plan and facilitate ‘sports day’. She ensures that all the children in her class can participate in the event and creates a programme for the day using her desktop publishing skills.
    • Reflect on and improve their practice, and take responsibility for identifying and meeting their developing professional needs.
    • Identify priorities for their early professional development in the context of induction.
    • Following a limited exposure to the PE curriculum during Stage 1 teaching practice, a trainee identifies the need to gain experience in teaching gymnastic activities. She negotiates an opportunity to plan, teach and assess a sequence of linked lessons and to apply knowledge acquired in a recent college-based course.
    • The same trainee identifies that professional development during the induction year is important and – following appointment to post – makes an early contact with the local Lead Development Agency in order to access CPD courses.
    Q8. Have a creative and constructively critical approach towards innovation, being prepared to adapt their practice where benefits and improvements are identified.A trainee attends a whole-school INSET course that is delivered by a local authority lead trainer. The course examines inclusion in PE and the trainee seeks to apply the strategies introduced in the course within her teaching. She is especially keen to explore ways of engaging the most-able children and begins to use ICT to support pupils' work in the evaluate and improve aspect of NCPE.
    Q9. Act upon advice and feedback and be open to coaching and mentoring.Following a ‘satisfactory’ PE lesson, a trainee acts on feedback from the school experience mentor (who observed the lesson) to try and improve specific aspects. In particular the assessment and recording of pupils' learning are an agreed focus for the next lesson in sequence and the trainee creates an assessment grid that is clearly linked to the stated learning intentions.
    2. PROFESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDINGExample of trainee practice in physical education
    Q10. Have a knowledge and understanding of a range of teaching, learning and behaviour management strategies and know how to use and adapt them, including how to personalise learning and provide opportunities for all learners to achieve their potential.Having made some initial observations and assessments of pupils' work in PE, a trainee plans carefully differentiated tasks within a games activities lesson which focus on invasion games. Tasks are set for different groups of children and variation is achieved by using different equipment, space and numbers in teams.
    Q11. Know the assessment requirements and arrangements for the subjects/curriculum areas they are trained to teach, including those relating to public examinations and qualifications.A trainee proactively seeks opportunities to work alongside class teachers who are preparing end of term reports for pupils. Although he finds this demanding, the ensuing discussion with class teachers is valuable and informative to all. In particular, comments based on the ‘four aspects’ of NCPE are included in each pupil's report.
    Q12. Know a range of approaches to assessment, including the importance of formative assessment.A final stage trainee uses a system of ‘formative assessment’ during a six week series of dance activities with a Year 5 class. By the end of the unit of work, each pupil has collected a range of photographs, skill analysis grids, video clips and peer-assessment information. The trainee meets with the class teacher to discuss how this information can be used to inform subsequent planning.
    Q13. Know how to use local and national statistical information to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching, to monitor the progress of those they teach and to raise levels of attainment.A trainee uses information provided by the local authority regarding children's attainment in ‘physical development’ at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage to plan and assess her pupils' work in a Year 1 class. She thinks that the majority of pupils are exceeding expectations and plans tasks that will continue to provide appropriate challenge.
    Q14 Have a secure knowledge and understanding of their subjects/curriculum areas and related pedagogy to enable them to teach effectively across the age and ability range for which they are trained to teach.A trainee works with school- and college-based staff to ensure that (over the duration of her undergraduate degree) she gains practical experience within games, gymnastics and dance activities. She also completes a written PE assignment in the second year of her course which focuses on the ‘acquire and develop’ aspect of NCPE.
    Q15. Know and understand the relevant statutory and non-statutory curricula and frameworks, including those provided through the National Strategies, for their subjects/curriculum areas, and other relevant initiatives applicable to the age and ability range for which they are trained.A trainee works alongside the class teacher and other colleagues to ensure that the national PSA target of two hours per week of high-quality PE and sport is achieved for her pupils. She also seeks to make connections between PE and other subjects and encourages children's creative skills through the teaching of literacy alongside dance activities.
    Q16. Have passed the professional skills tests in numeracy, literacy and information and communication technology (ICT).
    Q17. Know how to use skills in literacy, numeracy and ICT to support their teaching and wider professional activities.A trainee uses a variety of simple software packages to manage his own plans and records of pupils' work. He uses a database to keep a record of formative assessments in physical education, linked to NCPE level descriptors, which is shared with other colleagues to help them plan for individual needs.
    Q18. Understand how children and young people develop and that the progress and well-being of learners are affected by a range of developmental, social, religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic influences.By taking a ‘developmental approach’, a trainee plans tasks in PE that are specifically matched to meet individual needs. During a teaching practice, the class includes children from a variety of ethnic groups; the trainee draws on this aspect to support learning in dance activities by drawing on a wide range of cultural influences.
    Q19. Know how to make effective personalised provision for those they teach, including those for whom English is an additional language or who have special educational needs, and how to take practical account of diversity and promote equality and inclusion in their teaching.A trainee focuses on using task cards to ‘scaffold’ children's learning in swimming activities and for water safety. For some children in the Year 2 class English is an additional language, and the trainee works with the TA to use two languages on each card.
    Q20. Know and understand the roles of colleagues with specific responsibilities, including those with responsibility for learners with special educational needs and disabilities and other individual learning needs.A trainee meets with the SENCO to discuss policy and practice with particular reference to the pupil in her class identified with ADHD. The trainee is particularly concerned that PE experiences can build on this child's seemingly limitless desire to move whilst not compromising safety for the whole class.
    Q21. (a) Be aware of current legal requirements, national policies and guidance on the safeguarding and promotion of well-being of children and young people.A trainee completes a college-based directed task that shows how the five outcomes of Every Child Matters link to National Curriculum requirements in Key Stage 1. She attempts to reflect this in her teaching of PE and specifically includes learning intentions that relate to health and the fostering of self-esteem among the children by using meaningful and enjoyable activities.
    (b)Know how to identify and support children and young people whose progress, development or well-being is affected by changes or difficulties in their personal circumstances, and when to refer them to colleagues for specialist support.A trainee is concerned that an 8 year old child in her class suddenly appears to have little energy and struggles to remain active in PE for sustained periods of time. The trainee consults with the class teacher who in turn speaks with the headteacher and an associated health professional; in collaboration with the pupil's parents, guidance is offered concerning dietary intake and sleep requirements.
    3. PROFESSIONAL SKILLSExample of trainee practice in physical education
    Q22. Plan for progression across the age and ability range for which they are trained, designing effective learning sequences within lessons and across series of lessons and demonstrating secure subject/curriculum knowledge.A student in her final stage of ITT seeks an opportunity to plan, teach and assess a sequence of lessons in Athletics Activities. She finds out the level of prior experience in this activity area and attempts to map out a unit of work that will challenge her Year 5 pupils. In her planning, she identifies clear learning intentions which will extend the pupils' knowledge and understanding to include new and different ways of throwing a range of objects for distance and accuracy.
    Q23. Design opportunities for learners to develop their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills.Following a gymnastics activities lesson with a Year 2 class, a trainee uses video clips of the pupils moving to focus on movement vocabulary. The pupils use the interactive whiteboard in the classroom to suggest appropriate words that are then written next to still images of their actions.
    Q24. Plan homework or other out-of-class work to sustain learners’ progress and to extend and consolidate their learning.A trainee uses questioning during a PE warm up to check pupils' understanding about the short-term effects of exercise on the body. She uses existing knowledge to link with on-going work in Science and asks children to measure heart rates across a normal day, including their time at home and before and after school. She helps the children to create a heart rate log and uses these data, in particular data gathered over a weekend, during maths lessons.
    Q25. Teach lessons and sequences of lessons across the age and ability range for which they are trained in which they:
    (a) use a range of teaching strategies and resources, including e-learning, taking practical account of diversity and promoting equality and inclusion.Despite initial concerns regarding maintaining control of the pupils, a trainee adopts a ‘guided discovery’ style when teaching a floorwork gymnastics activity in Key Stage 2. She prepares task cards to engage the pupils in the planning and evaluation of their own work.
    (b) build on prior knowledge, develop concepts and processes, enable learners to apply new knowledge, understanding and skills and meet learning objectives.During a placement with a Year 4 class, a trainee uses the knowledge accrued by pupils in a concurrent sequence of geography lessons to good effect in an Outdoor and Adventurous Activities context. The trainee plans activities where the pupils can apply navigation skills in teams, within the school grounds, in a variety of orienteering challenges.
    (c) adapt their language to suit the learners they teach, introducing new ideas and concepts clearly, and using explanations, questions, discussions and plenaries effectively.During a dance activities lesson, a trainee works with a small group of Year 1 pupils to explore the use of space. The trainee is surprised at how quickly the children are able to work skilfully in their own space and extends the pupils' learning by introducing partner and trio work. The trainee uses discussion to prompt the pupils to work at different levels and to complement each other's work. The trainee asks the children to demonstrate their work to the rest of the class during the plenary and asks the observers to suggest what they like about the observed actions.
    (d) demonstrate the ability to manage learning of individuals, groups and whole classes, modifying their teaching to suit the stage of the lesson.A trainee uses ‘exploration’ and ‘guided discovery’ teaching styles to engage the whole class at the start of a games activity lesson. As the lesson progresses, the trainee provides individuals and small groups with appropriate and specific feedback whilst maintaining a careful watch over the whole class.
    Q26. (c) Make effective use of a range of assessment, monitoring and recording strategies.A trainee uses principles of assessment for learning to design four systems for assessing and recording pupils' progress in gymnastics activities. Simple formats for individual, group, peer- and self-assessment are used across a unit of work to create a portfolio of achievement.
    (b) Assess the learning needs of those they teach in order to set challenging learning objectives.During the early stages of school-based practice, a trainee observes Year 3 pupils working in a games activity context. It is evident that many pupils are unable to demonstrate a range of sending and receiving skills and that some are restricted by competitive practices. The trainee plans the following lesson to include differentiated tasks and to allow all pupils more time and space ‘on the ball’.
    Q27. Provide timely, accurate and constructive feedback on learners’ attainment, progress and areas for development.A trainee plans a Year 1 PE lesson with a learning intention of ‘acquiring and developing sending and receiving skills’. At the planning stage, she thinks through the appropriate movement vocabulary required to give instructions and provide feedback. During the lesson the trainee uses this language (using a prompt card to remind her) to give constructive feedback, particularly in relation to body position and arm action within ball rolling and throwing actions for accuracy.
    Q28. Support and guide learners to reflect on their learning, identify the progress they have made and identify their emerging learning needs.A trainee uses questioning to check pupils' understanding within the main activity in a Year 6 Athletics Activities lesson (the lesson is focusing on evaluating and improving each other's work in running activities). She challenges the pupils to analyse travelling actions and to consider the changes to technique that can be made to cover various distances in less time. Each child completes a self-assessment log that includes a focus for subsequent lessons.
    Q29. Evaluate the impact of their teaching on the progress of all learners, and modify their planning and classroom practice where necessary.A trainee evaluates all lessons, including those in PE. In the early stages of ITT, these comments reflect largely on health and safety and behaviour management issues. As the trainee becomes more experienced in teaching PE, evaluations become more focused on quality of learning and small changes that can be made to strengthen the experience of each child.
    Q30. Establish a purposeful and safe learning environment conducive to learning and identify opportunities for learners to learn in out-of-school contexts.A trainee follows school-based and national best practice guidelines for health and safety in PE. He involves the children in preparing a health and safety poster for the upcoming unit of work taking place in a swimming pool at a local sports centre and prepares laminated resource cards that provide visual learning stimuli.
    Q31. Establish a clear framework for classroom discipline to manage learners’ behaviour constructively and promote their self-control and independenceA trainee who is working with a Year 2 class is concerned about the children becoming boisterous during gymnastics activities in the school hall. She sets early learning tasks that emphasise control, accuracy and neatness of body actions and encourages each child to work in their own defined space (initially using individual mats and hoops as a guide).
    Q32. Work as a team member and identify opportunities for working with colleagues, sharing the development of effective practice with them.A trainee attends a whole-school INSET course that is delivered by a local authority lead trainer. The course examines inclusion in PE and the trainee seeks to apply the strategies introduced in the course within her teaching. She is especially keen to find ways of engaging the most-able children and begins to use ICT to support pupils' work in the evaluate and improve aspect of NCPE. This is successful and she is asked to feedback to colleagues at the end-of-term staff meeting.
    Q33. Ensure that colleagues working with them are appropriately involved in supporting learning and understand the roles they are expected to fulfil.A trainee makes effective use of her teaching assistant (TA) in PE. During a unit of work in dance activities, the TA scaffolds pupils' work with appropriate feedback and feed forward, using movement vocabulary that the trainee has written on a prompt card and discussed before the lesson. A trainee makes effective use of her teaching assistant (TA) in PE. During a unit of work in dance activities, the TA scaffolds pupils' work with appropriate feedback and feed forward, using movement vocabulary that the trainee has written on a prompt card and discussed before the lesson. A trainee makes effective use of her teaching assistant (TA) in PE. During a unit of work in dance activities, the TA scaffolds pupils' work with appropriate feedback and feed forward, using movement vocabulary that the trainee has written on a prompt card and discussed before the lesson. A trainee makes effective use of her teaching assistant (TA) in PE. During a unit of work in dance activities, the TA scaffolds pupils' work with appropriate feedback and feed forward, using movement vocabulary that the trainee has written on a prompt card and discussed before the lesson.

    Adapted from: Pickup, I. and Price. L. (2007) Teaching Physical Education in the Primary School: A Developmental Approach. London: Continuum.

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