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National Curriculum

Understanding physical development, health and wellbeing - Programme of learning

Statutory content

Learning in this area should include an appropriate balance of focused subject teaching and well-planned opportunities to use, apply and develop knowledge and skills across the whole curriculum.

See related key actions

The programme of learning is made up of:

Curriculum aims

This area of learning contributes to the achievement of the curriculum aims for all young people to become:

  • successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve
  • confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives
  • responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.

Explanatory text


Why this area of learning is important

To enjoy healthy, active and fulfilling lives, children must learn to respond positively to challenges, be enterprising and handle risk and to develop self-confidence and physical capabilities. This area of learning lays the foundations for long-term wellbeing and contributes to children’s mental, social, emotional (i) , economic (i) and physical (i) development. It is central to their development as confident individuals.

Children learn about their changing bodies and the importance of nutrition and rest for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Through sport and other physical activities, they learn to increase body control, coordination and dexterity.

Children also learn about their responsibilities both as individuals and members of groups and teams. They learn to cooperate and to compete fairly, understanding their own and others’ roles.

As they become more confident, children develop a growing self-awareness and a commitment to self-improvement so they can make informed decisions that lead to happy and healthy lives. They raise their aspirations, set goals and work to achieve them, seeing how this will influence their opportunities in education, leisure and in the world of work.

Explanatory text

Social and emotional: Teachers will continue to find the guidance on social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL) a support for planning in this area of learning

Economic: Aspects of economic and business understanding are also included in Historical, geographical and social understanding

Physical: The physical activities in this area of learning contribute to the five-hour offer per week of PE and sport. This should include at least two hours of high-quality physical education

1. Essential knowledge

Children should build secure knowledge of the following:

  1. healthy living depends upon a balance of physical activity, nutrition, leisure, work and rest to promote wellbeing (i)
  2. physical competence and performance can be improved through practice, control and dexterity as well as creative thinking and commitment
  3. good interpersonal relationships promote personal wellbeing and are sustained through a positive sense of personal identity and respect for similarities and differences
  4. personal wellbeing depends upon high aspirations and the development of financial and enterprise capability
  5. challenge and risk can be managed through well-informed choices that lead to safe, full and active lives.

Explanatory text

Wellbeing: Personal wellbeing includes physical, mental, intellectual, social, emotional and economic aspects

2. Key skills

These are the skills that children need to learn to make progress:

  1. reflect on and evaluate evidence when making personal choices or bringing about improvements in performance and behaviour
  2. generate and implement ideas, plans and strategies, exploring alternatives
  3. move with ease, poise, stability and control in a range of physical contexts
  4. find information and check its accuracy, including the different ways that issues are presented by different viewpoints and media
  5. communicate clearly and interact with a range of audiences to express views on issues that affect their wellbeing.

Explanatory text


3. Cross-curricular studies

This area of learning should provide opportunities for: 

  1. children to develop and apply their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills
  2. personal, emotional and social development
  3. enhancing children's understanding of physical development, health and wellbeing through making links to other areas of learning and to wider issues of interest and importance.

4. Breadth of learning

a. When learning about exercise and health children should:

  1. participate in a range of activities that promote physical skilfulness and development through indoor and outdoor activities, including creative play
  2. be able to identify what types of physical activities they enjoy and find out how to get involved
  3. take part in physical activities that involve competing with and outwitting opponents (i), accurate replication of actions (i), optimum performance (i) and creative problem solving (i)
  4. learn to swim (i) a minimum distance of 25m
  5. refine physical skills (i) within aerobic activities and ball games
  6. learn about the importance of healthy lifestyles and have opportunities to prepare and cook simple balanced meals
  7. learn how nutrition, exercise and hygiene contribute to their wellbeing.

b. When learning about the physical and emotional changes that take place as they grow, children should:

  1. learn about relationships and sex (i) within the context of caring and stable relationships
  2. learn how to make decisions that promote and sustain better physical, mental and emotional health
  3. learn about staying safe and how to handle risks relating to issues including harmful relationships, drugs and alcohol, and how and where to get help
  4. learn how to manage their emotions and develop and sustain relationships, recognising diversity and respecting themselves and others
  5. collaborate and compete individually, in pairs, groups and teams. Through these activities, children learn about their capabilities, their limitations and their potential.

c. In developing their awareness of the adult world and raising their aspirations, children should:

  1. solve problems, embrace and overcome challenges and deal with change
  2. come to recognise that there is a range of work that people do and a variety of ways in which people contribute to society
  3. learn how education and training can improve their opportunities in later life (i)
  4. meet people from a range of occupations as well as attend events outside of school (i)
  5. learn about where money comes from, its uses and how to manage it (i)
  6. develop and use enterprise skills.

Explanatory text

Competing with and outwitting opponents: This includes competing and collaborating in activities and games

Replication of actions: This includes gymnastics and dance activities. Dance is also included in Understanding the arts
Optimum performance: This includes athletics and competitive games including swimming
Creative problem solving: This includes adventurous activities such as expeditions, camping and personal survival
Learn to swim: All children should learn to float and move safely in water and to swim unaided or unsupported on their front and on their back. They should learn how to swim unaided and to survive in water
Refine physical skills: Children should have opportunities to develop coordination through activities such as hitting, striking, catching, throwing, running, jumping, skipping and hopping
Learn about relationships and sex: This includes making judgements about the appropriateness of sex and relationships education in relation to the age and maturity of learners
Opportunities in later life: Children should be encouraged to learn about the pathways they might take in their future education through secondary, further and higher education
Events outside of school: This could include meeting sports people, exercise and nutrition experts, chefs, medical and business professionals, attending sports and dance events and different places of work, and participating in residential visits
Money comes from, its uses and how to manage it: Aspects of financial education are also included in Mathematical understanding

5. Curriculum progression

The overall breadth of learning should be used when planning curriculum progression. Children should be taught:

Understanding physical development, health and wellbeing - across the area of learning


E1. to work and play independently and in groups

E2. to listen to, and show consideration for, other people's views

E3. to identify and talk about their own and others’ strengths and how to improve

E4. how to keep safe (i) and know how and where to get help

E5. to use strategies to stay safe when using ICT and the internet

E6. to recognise right and wrong, what is fair and unfair and explain why

E7. to recognise how attitude and behaviour, including bullying (i), may affect others

Explanatory text

Keep safe: This includes knowing how to stay safe in physical activities and in different social settings and other aspects of staying safe in the home, in water and road safety

Bullying: This includes what bullying is, that it is wrong and how to challenge it


M1. to work independently and in groups, taking on different roles and collaborating towards common goals

M2. to listen to, reflect on and respect other people’s views and feelings

M3. to recognise and respect similarities and differences between people

M4. to recognise their own and others’ strengths and weaknesses and how to improve

M5. to recognise and respond to issues of safety (i) relating to themselves and others and how to get help

M6. to use ICT safely, including keeping their electronic data secure (i)

M7. to recognise and manage risk in their everyday activities

M8. to recognise how attitude, behaviour and peer pressure can influence choice and behaviour, including dealing with bullying (i)

Explanatory text

Issues of safety: This includes risk in the home, road safety, water, electricity and personal safety relating to relationships with adults

Keeping their electronic data secure: This includes not disclosing personal information while online and not disclosing passwords

Bullying: This includes both positive and negative influences and learning about how to deal with different types of bullying (physical, verbal, via mobile phones, online), how to recognise it, how to seek help and how to develop strategies for coping with it



L1. to take the lead, prioritise actions and work independently and collaboratively towards goals

L2. to listen to, reflect on and respect other people's views and feelings while negotiating and presenting their own views

L3. to recognise and challenge stereotyping and discrimination (i)

L4. to self-assess, set goals, prioritise and manage time and resources, understanding how this will help their future actions

L5. to recognise their strengths and how they can contribute to different groups

L6. to take responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others and where to seek help in an emergency (i)

L7. to use ICT safely (i), including using software features and settings

L8. how to respond to challenges, including recognising, taking and managing risks

L9. about the factors influencing opinion (i) and choice, including the media

L10. to recognise how their behaviour (i) and the behaviour of others may influence people both positively and negatively

Explanatory text

Challenge stereotyping and discrimination: This includes cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, gender and disability

Emergency: Children should know about some basic aspects of first aid

Use ICT safely: This includes altering security settings on social network sites and knowing how to respond to chat/video requests from unknown people

Factors influencing opinion: This includes increasing children’s awareness of consumerism and how advertising and access to the internet can influence choice and behaviour
Behaviour: This includes both positive and negative influences and learning about how to deal with different types of bullying (physical, verbal, in and out of school, via the internet and mobile phones), how to recognise it, how to seek help and how to develop strategies for coping with bullying

Understanding physical development, health and well being programme of learning - physical education


E8. to develop control and coordination of their physical movements

E9. to recognise, observe and apply rules in competitive and cooperative games and other physical activities and why they are important

E10. to devise and use repeat compositions and sequences in physical activities (i)

E11. to use and apply simple tactics and strategies

E12. to improve performance by observation and use criteria for evaluation

E13. about the benefits of regular exercise and how their bodies feel when they exercise

Explanatory text

Sequences in physical activities: This includes activities in which they perform skills, phrases and sequences as accurately as possible, such as dance and gymnastics




M9. to control and coordinate their bodies and movements with increasing skill and confidence

M10. to follow and apply more complex rules in a range of competitive and cooperative games and physical activities

M11. to develop physical skills and techniques (i) by observation, evaluation and refinement; and to use repetition and practice to reach higher standards

M12. to use tactics, strategies and compositional ideas to achieve set objectives and improve performance

M13. to recognise ways in which stamina and flexibility can be improved through daily physical activity

Explanatory text

Physical skills and techniques: This includes activities in which they need to perform skills, phrases and sequences as accurately as possible such as gymnastics, dance or Tai Chi




L11. to perform physical movements and complex series of movements with increasing control, coordination, precision and consistency

L12. to create and apply rules and use more complex compositions, tactics and strategies in competitive and cooperative games and other physical activities

L13. to develop and perform sequences and compositions using appropriate movements to express ideas and emotions

L14. to refine physical skills and techniques, commenting on strengths and weaknesses in their own and others’ performance

L15. to recognise the benefits of practice and reflection for improving personal and group performance (i)

Explanatory text

Improving personal and group performance: This includes the use of ICT to monitor, record and review performance


Understanding physical development, health and well being programme of learning - personal wellbeing


E14. why healthy eating and physical activity are beneficial

E15. to make healthy eating choices and prepare simple healthy foods

E16. that some substances (i) can help or harm the body

E17. about the simple physical changes (i) to their bodies they have experienced since birth and the similarities and differences between people

E18. to manage personal hygiene

E19. to identify different relationships that they have and why these are important (i)

E20. how to recognise, manage and control strong feelings and emotions

Explanatory text

Substances: This includes safe storage of household substances

Physical changes: This includes simple physical changes, growth, hair, height and the differences between boys and girls
Different relationships that they have and why these are important: This includes starting with close family, carers, friends and widening their recognition to people less known to them including personal safety relating to relationships with adults. This includes learning about changing relationships, about marriage, separation and loss


M14. about the relationship and balance between physical activity and nutrition (i) in achieving a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle

M15. to plan and help prepare simple healthy meals

M16. about the impact of some harmful and beneficial substances on their body (i)

M17. about the physical and emotional changes that take place as they grow and approach puberty (i)

M18. how to form and maintain relationships (i) with a range of different people

M19. strategies for managing and controlling strong feelings and emotions

Explanatory text

Physical activity and nutrition: This includes achieving healthy weight by balancing exercise and nutrition

Harmful and beneficial substances on their body: This includes the effects of medicines, tobacco, alcohol and other drugs on their bodies

Puberty: This includes changes to their bodies, emotions, feelings and attitudes

Relationships: This includes valuing relationships within their families and with carers and with people different from themselves. This also includes changing relationships, marriage, civil partnerships, separation, loss and bereavement


L16. to understand the particular benefits of different physical activities for promoting health

L17. to take responsibility for their physical activity and nutrition in achieving a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle (i)

L18. to plan, prepare and cook simple healthy meals

L19. how to make responsible, informed decisions relating to medicines, alcohol, tobacco and other substances and drugs (i)

L20. about the physical changes that take place in the human body as they grow and how these relate to human reproduction

L21. how to manage changing emotions and relationships (i) and how new relationships may develop

L22. that hygiene, physical activity and nutrition needs might change as a result of growth and adolescence

L23. strategies for understanding, managing and controlling strong feelings and emotions and dealing with negative pressures

Explanatory text

Physically and mentally healthy lifestyle: This includes developing understanding of what constitutes physical and mental health and things that may threaten both

Substances and drugs: This includes awareness of misuse of volatile substances, including aerosols, glue and petrol

Relationships: This includes learning about changing relationships within their family and friendship groups, including marriage, civil partnerships, separation, loss and bereavement

Understanding physical development, health and well being programme of learning - economic wellbeing


E21. about the different types of work people do and about different places of work (i)

E22. about where money comes from and the choices people make to spend money on things they need and want

E23. ways to contribute to enterprise activities (i)

Explanatory text

Work: This should help to broaden children’s view of the adult world and the world of work

Enterprise activities: This includes generating ideas, solving problems with more than one solution and collaborating towards common goals


M20. why people work and the different jobs (i) people do

M21. what influences the choices (i) people make about how money is spent

M22. how they can contribute to a range of activities that help them to become more enterprising (i)

Explanatory text

Work and the different jobs: This should further develop children’s view of the world of work and career pathways
Choices: This could include knowing about organisations that promote ethical spending, about peer, media and other influences that help them become critical consumers
Enterprising: This includes developing the thinking skills, attitudes and dispositions needed to be enterprising, such as adaptability, perseverance and creative problem solving


L22. about the connections between their learning (i) , the world of work and their future economic wellbeing

L23. about how people manage money and about basic financial capability (i)

L24. to show initiative and take responsibility for activities that develop enterprise capability (i)

Explanatory text

Connections between their learning: This should help children to make the link between their learning at school and learning in other settings
Basic financial capability: This will help children develop a basic understanding of the difference between cost, price and the notion of profit
Enterprise capability: This includes further developing enterprise capability through activities such as organising and hosting events and performances, designing outdoor trails and making and selling products

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