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National Curriculum

Assessment in physical education


Making a judgement

At the end of a key stage, teachers should judge which level description best fits the pupil's performance. Each description should be considered alongside descriptions for adjacent levels. When making a judgement at the end of a key stage, you may wish to note the following points.

Making your judgement

  • You will arrive at judgements by taking into account strengths and weaknesses in performance across a range of contexts and over a period of time, rather than focusing on a single piece of work.

  • A single piece of work will not cover all the expectations set out in a level description. It will probably provide partial evidence of attainment in one or two aspects of a level description. If you look at it alongside other pieces of work covering a range of contexts you will be able to make a judgement about which level best fits a pupil's overall performance.

Range of teacher's knowledge about attainment

  • Because of the nature of physical education your judgement on a pupil's attainment will be made by taking into account work from four, or sometimes more, areas of activity, and possibly many more specific activities. Your judgement will be based on the degree to which each pupil meets the knowledge, skills and understanding described under the four aspects as demonstrated across a range of activities. You will need to consider how far pupils are able to adapt their knowledge and skills and apply them for different purposes in a range of activities with different concepts and types of outcome.

  • Evidence of attainment can be found both in lessons and out of lessons. However, teachers must be sure that the evidence they have is secure.

  • The four aspects of knowledge, skills and understanding do not have to be assessed separately, though on some occasions this may be appropriate. Teachers need to take account of the requirement that when pupils are evaluating and improving performance they are making connections between developing, selecting and applying skills, tactics and compositional ideas, and fitness and health.

Giving pupils opportunities to demonstrate attainment

  • Your pupils will need to use a range of forms of communication to show what they can do.

  • In planning units of work and classroom approaches, you will need to provide opportunities for pupils to display their achievements in different ways, and to work in a range of situations.

  • Pupils will usually demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding by performing a task in an authentic context. The task should reflect a pupil's age and ability. The core tasks in the schemes of work describe authentic contexts at a suitable pitch for particular ages and key stages.

  • Opportunities should exist for pupils to show what they know and understand through question and answer, written work where appropriate and by planning activities such as:

    • warming up and cooling down

    • using video to analyse performance and select targets for improvement

    • leading and organising others in practices and performances

    • refereeing or umpiring

    • organising competitions or performances.

  • Lessons are not the only places in which attainment can be demonstrated. Many pupils take part in clubs and other organised physical activity where they demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding.


Although you will want to be able to explain why you have awarded particular levels to pupils at the end of the key stage, there is no requirement for judgements to be explained in a particular way or to be supported by detailed collections of evidence for each pupil. Decisions about collecting information, about its purpose and how it should be used are matters for teachers working within an agreed school policy.

Progression in physical education

In PE the level descriptions show progression in the four aspects of knowledge, skills and understanding set out in the programme of study:

  1. acquiring and developing skills

  2. selecting and applying skills, tactics and compositional ideas

  3. evaluating and improving performance

  4. knowledge and understanding of fitness and health.

To ensure pupils make progress in PE as they move through the key stages, teaching should provide opportunities for pupils to progress:

  • from early movement explorations to acquiring and developing a range of skills that show improved control and coordination, and then to refining and extending these skills and being able to perform them with some accuracy, consistency and fluency

  • from the simple selection and application of skills in a series or in combination to the planning and use of more complex sequences, games strategies and compositional principles

  • from being able to describe what they see being performed to making simple evaluations of performance and being able to use this information to improve the quality of their work

  • from knowing that exercise makes them hot or out of breath to developing an understanding of why activity might be good for them and how important it is to their general health and wellbeing, and how different types of fitness affect their performance.

The aspects of attainment are closely interlinked. For example, evaluating and improving performance should take into account the relationship between developing, selecting and applying skills, tactics and compositional ideas, and fitness and health. The quality of a performance and the selection of skills, tactics and compositional ideas are affected by the range and level of skill, the type and degree of fitness, and understanding of the concept of the activity.

About the attainment target

The attainment target in PE sets out the knowledge, skills and understanding that pupils of different abilities and maturities are expected to have by the end of each key stage. Attainment targets consist of eight level descriptions of increasing difficulty, plus a description of exceptional performance above level 8. Each level description describes the type and range of performance that pupils working at that level should characteristically demonstrate. The level descriptions provide the basis for making judgements about pupils' performance at the end of a key stage.

The majority of pupils are expected to work at:

  • levels 1-3 in key stage 1 and attain level 2 at the end of the key stage

  • levels 2-5 in key stage 2 and attain level 4 at the end of the key stage.

By indicating expectations at particular levels and by charting broad progression in the subject, the level descriptions can also inform planning, teaching and assessment. Please note, the level descriptions are not designed to be used to 'level' individual pieces of work.

This content relates to the 1999 programmes of study and attainment targets.

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