Working towards 2012 and beyond: how a wider curriculum and increased funding boosts pupils’ achievement in physical education

Mountain biking, dance, martial arts, and yoga are putting physical education (PE) back in favour with a generation of pupils whose experience of the subject bears no relation to the stereotype of suffering sport in the rain. That is one of the main conclusions of a report published today by Ofsted, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.

The report, Physical Education in Schools 2005/8: working towards 2012 and beyond, found a positive picture for PE and school sport, with pupils taking part in a wider range of activities than previously associated with the subject. Creative approaches to PE not only encouraged pupils not keen on traditional team activities, but also reduced disaffection and improved engagement.

Pupils’ achievement was good or outstanding in two thirds of the primary and over three quarters of the secondary schools visited. Inspectors found most young people they spoke to enjoyed PE, their engagement in lessons was positive and participation rates in extra-curricular activities were high.

Government funding from 2003 has enabled a greater, more sustained focus on PE. Teachers, particularly in primary schools, have benefited from increased opportunities for professional development and these have led to improvements in subject leadership, teaching and standards.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said: 'PE has a considerable impact on students’ personal development. Ofsted’s inspectors found participation, behaviour and relationships between staff and students were often outstanding. Students were enthusiastic about PE, had very positive attitudes to their learning, and said how much they enjoyed the subject, especially the wider choice and opportunities to undertake leadership roles.'

In both primary and secondary schools, pupils were encouraged to take on responsibilities and leadership roles, contributing not only to the school and local community but also their personal development. In primary schools older and talented pupils led warm-up sessions and acted as playground activity leaders, and secondary students organised clubs, festivals and tournaments for younger students and primary schools.

In the latter part of the survey, inspectors found that most of the primary schools were meeting the Government’s target of two hours PE and school sports a week, and those that didn’t often bolstered the total with structured physical activities at the start of the day, break and lunchtime. Many of the secondary schools had increased curriculum time for PE and most were also meeting the target, except at Key Stage 4, where provision in half the secondary schools fell short for some pupils.

Although better than in most other subjects, assessment was the weakest aspect of PE in both primary and secondary schools. Procedures were not robust enough to monitor and analyse the achievements of all pupils. Less than a third of the primary schools shared records of pupils’ achievements in PE with their partner secondary schools, and most of the secondary schools did not assess students’ standards and achievement in core physical education at Key Stage 4.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, said: 'As we look forward to the Olympics in 2012, this report provides an encouraging picture of young people’s enjoyment and achievement in PE and sport. The challenge is for all schools to find enough time for PE and to encourage pupils to continue to enjoy being active into adulthood.'

Notes for Editors

1. The report, Physical Education in Schools 2005/8: working towards 2012 and beyond, can be found on the Ofsted website

2. The report, Physical Education in Schools 2005/8: working towards 2012 and beyond, is based on a three-year evaluation of physical education in 100 primary and 84 secondary schools in England. Evidence was drawn from school inspections and focused subject survey visits by Her Majesty’s Inspectors and Additional Inspectors from September 2005 to July 2008.

3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects registered childcare and children's social care, including adoption and fostering agencies, residential schools, family centres and homes for children. It also inspects all state maintained schools, non-association independent schools, pupil referral units, further education, initial teacher education, and publicly funded adult skills and employment based training, the Children and Family Courts Advisory Service (Cafcass), and the overall level of services for children in local authority areas.