The sun is out, the sky is blue – Let’s do PE on the field.


Spring is on its way

I’m writing this on the first warm(ish) sunny day of the year when Spring seems to have sprung.

And lo and behold, Ofsted have published their research review into PE, which seems very appropriate on the first day of the year when a headteacher might well be saying, “Yes you can all go onto the school field at playtime and for games lessons.”

I’ve worked with a lot of subject leaders over the last few years and the issue of monitoring has always been obviously a bit tricky for PE leaders. When I’m talking about book scrutiny they roll their eyes and fiddle with the label on their designer jogging bottoms, while their English and maths subject leader colleagues make frantic notes of the kind of things Ofsted might ask about.

And when I talk about learning walks and being able to see teaching in lots of lessons across the school or key stage in an hour or so, the PE leader is wondering how this applies to them when only one class can actually fit in the school hall at a time, and only after the peas have all been swept up after lunch.

Children playing outside

One PE subject leader told me, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, that he could see everyone teach PE when they were out on the school field if he stood in the right place in his own classroom whilst teaching, and he craned his neck a bit. Or at least he could see about half the class, unless they all ran down one end.

The answer (I nearly wrote ‘solution’ but I have an almost visceral dislike of the word solution used in anything other than a chemical context. Overuse in adverts I suppose); anyway the answer can be to plan learning walk but to do so over a longer period of time. More of a learning expedition if you like. I blogged about this idea a few years ago but it might be worth mentioning again. The PE leader arranges cover (kind deputy head perhaps?) mid-way through their history lesson for 15 minutes so they can pop out and observe a colleague teach PE on a Wednesday afternoon, then the same thing the following Tuesday during their own art lesson to observe another colleague and so on. So by half-term or the end of term they’ve seen everybody. Otherwise how else can this crucial form of monitoring take place? It can work for any subject that isn’t taught simultaneously across a school or key stage of course.

The other issue is assessment. There are some highly effective summative assessments that are part of the various PE scheme of work that are out there. PE is an interesting subject when stating that a pupil is at the expected standard for the end of a year or key stage, or at the end of a year because of the range of knowledge and skills. A few PE subject leaders I’ve worked with have had to refine their existing systems because a child was being put into the system as ‘GD’ when they were indeed very skillful and knowledgeable in gymnastics (county standard, you know) and dance, not bad at netball and tag rugby but couldn’t actually swim…

And this begs the perennial question about this information. What happens to a child deemed to be working below age expectations? Catch-up sessions?! (Possibly literally in athletics?)

I have seen some great practice in schools where this summative PE assessment is rigorous and stripped done to what is useful. On the basis of this information, staff can challenge higher attainers because of high-quality CPD and the use of external expertise, and lower attainers are supported, targeted in lessons for additional input, and maybe encouraged to take part in extra-curricular activities to develop their learning.

If you have good practice in your setting please let me know. I’m an occasional tweeter @TimNelsonCPD or have a chat if we see each other on a course.

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