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How to Boost Confidence in PE…for Students and Teachers

We need to apply the same principles we use in the classroom for PE to boost confidence for teachers and pupils alike, says Debra Wade...

  • How to Boost Confidence in PE…for Students and Teachers

As a headteacher, I’m constantly reviewing what we offer our teachers and children at school.

The question I find myself asking most frequently is: “Are we successfully stimulating our pupils’ lively, enquiring minds and encouraging them to become independent, lifelong learners across the whole curriculum?”

It’s easy to fall into the trap of pigeon-holing some children as ‘not sporty’ and others as ‘gifted and talented’ in a PE context, rather than believing that every child can achieve and that opportunity, a great learning environment and appropriate practice are key determinants.

So how do we apply the same principles that we use in the classroom to our PE lessons to ensure every child experiences success and challenge during PE and physical activity? Why should PE be different to the other subjects we teach?

Many assume only specialist PE teachers or coaches can deliver an exciting and engaging PE lesson. But all primary school teachers understand learning and know their children better than anyone.

They already possess the majority of the key skills required and demonstrate them in other subjects.

The key challenge, then, is how we arm teachers with suitable knowledge and give them the confidence to deliver exceptional PE lessons while making the very best sustainable use of the PE and sports premium.

At Bawnmore, we’ve changed our approach in PE and have raised its profile across the whole school, from Nursery to Y2. We’ve adopted a child-centred – rather than an activity-centred – approach, which links with the core values we are working on as a school.

Instead of prioritising and praising only physical performance – for example, for being the fastest, the most able or finishing a piece of work – staff now focus on and reward children for effort, perseverance and for giving positive feedback to their peers, to give just a few examples.

This places the learner at the heart of practice and, by applying all of the high-quality learning and teaching skills that are the norm in other subjects, it is transforming how we teach PE.

Each PE lesson focuses on one of six abilities: personal, social, creative, cognitive, physical and health and fitness – all delivered, of course, through the physical.

We were introduced to this approach when we had real PE whole school training from Create Development and it has been a priority in our learning improvement plan for the past two years.

The children are fully engaged in their PE lessons now. We use thematic approaches, such as role playing astronauts going on a space trip, to developing jumping and landing skills.

The children love the stories and activities that link to the multi-abilities and the skills are all transferable to the classroom. Reception pupils, in particular, are keen to engage with the story and then follow through with linking the skills.

They love, for example, to be pirates following the captain’s instructions to scrub the deck. They also love taking part in the songs and watching the on-screen videos of other children performing the physical skills.

We have also seen good levels of progress in children’s skill development. They now lead their own learning in PE. They have clear next steps in each lesson to challenge themselves and are more motivated to beat their personal best as opposed to compete against the child next to them.

Each child achieves success which, in turn, has boosted their confidence, and their willingness to challenge themselves has helped develop resilience.

This has all helped create a positive relationship with PE and physical activity. Pupils who are struggling with a particular skill get some additional time in smaller groups with our PE apprentice.

Our teaching staff are very positive about the approach. They all say they now feel more confident in delivering lessons and enjoy teaching PE. They tell me they are happy to be observed during PE lessons, not only during monitoring visits by governors but even by Ofsted. This certainly wasn’t the case previously!

Are we enabling everyone to enjoy success through an inspiring and exciting curriculum? Yes, we are. What we’ve developed at Bawnmore is an enabling environment in PE where young people feel included, valued, challenged and supported to achieve their maximum potential in school and in life.


Debra Wade is headteacher at Bawnmore Community Infant School in Rugby, Warwickshire.

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