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National Curriculum

Developing personal, learning and thinking skills in physical education


What are we trying to achieve?

The new secondary curriculum focuses on developing the skills and qualities that learners need to succeed in school and the broader community. The development of personal, learning and thinking skills (PLTS) is essential to meeting the three national curriculum aims of becoming successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.

The individual subjects, which make up the curriculum, provide the essential range of activities, learning opportunities and contexts essential for the effective development of these skills (PLTS).

The framework comprises of six PLTS:

  • independent enquirers

  • creative thinkers

  • team workers

  • self-managers

  • effective participators

  • reflective learners.

PLTS underpin the whole curriculum and can transform young people’s engagement with learning. They support learners’ understanding of themselves as well as their relationship with others and the world around them. Effective development of PLTS can raise achievement and make a considerable impact on learners’ ability to succeed, both now and in adult life.

How do we develop PLTS?

The physical education programme of study provides a rich and exciting range of opportunities to develop PLTS as an integral part of subject teaching and learning. Explicit and implicit opportunities are present in the key concepts, key processes, range and content, and curriculum opportunities.

Independent enquirers

Learners can develop as independent enquirers when they are provided with opportunities in physical education to:

  • plan their own approaches, strategies and tactics to determine successful outcomes, for example in competitive, challenging or creative situations

  • recognise for themselves hazards and risks, making reasoned decisions about how to perform their activities

  • evaluate their own ideas and actions, and judge the relevance and value of information from different perspectives and viewpoints, including their own

  • work with increasing independence, applying their competence and creativity to different types of activity.

Creative thinkers

Learners can develop as creative thinkers when they are provided with opportunities in physical education to:

  • generate their own ideas to address problems in order to successfully perform in different activities, for example design original and effective training plans, team strategies and choreographies

  • experiment confidently with their own creative approaches to produce effective outcomes, for example selecting techniques, tactics and compositional principles

  • make adjustments and adaptations when performing in different contexts, for example to outwit opponents

  • make progress by selecting imaginative ways of working to improve their performance in increasingly challenging contexts.

Team workers

Learners can develop as team workers when they are provided with opportunities in physical education to:

  • collaborate in order to succeed in working towards a common goal, for example in group performances

  • recognise their own strengths and weaknesses and those of others, taking responsibility for allocating roles and tasks, for example in planning and training regimes

  • recognise individual and collective responsibility for their performances, both successes and failures

  • provide and respond to constructive feedback, resolving issues to achieve successful outcomes.


Learners can develop as self-managers when they are provided with opportunities in physical education to:

  • take personal responsibility for organising their time and resources, for example dealing with competing pressures to meet a personal performance target

  • make informed choices about their physical wellbeing

  • develop their mental and physical determination and set out new personal challenges.

Effective participators

Learners can develop as effective participators when they are provided with opportunities in physical education to:

  • engage with activities that they enjoy and have selected for themselves

  • regularly take part in physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle

  • be part of the sporting or dance life of the school and that of the wider community

  • take an active part in discussing issues of concern related to physical activity, sport and dance, exploring their own and others’ views

  • identify improvements that would benefit themselves as well as others.

Reflective learners

Learners can develop as reflective learners when they are provided with opportunities in physical education to:

  • identify for themselves new and improved techniques, choreographic ideas, tactics and strategies to refine and improve the quality of their performance

  • invite feedback and deal positively with praise and criticism from others

  • make decisions on how to improve their performance and act on those decisions in future performances.

How do we plan for PLTS?

Effective planning for PLTS in physical education needs to ensure that they are embedded into sequences of work, teaching approaches and learning outcomes. When this is done well, it will enrich the experiences of learners and support their progress in  physical education while increasing coherence across the curriculum.

The following are some questions we might ask to support the development of PLTS through physical education.

  • Are there planned opportunities for learning and teaching, where the six PLTS can be taught, practised and reinforced in a range of contexts?

  • Are planned experiences sufficiently ‘open’ for learners to draw on personal experiences and set themselves personal challenges?

  • Do activities encourage learners to explore a range of settings, for example collaborative work, individual work, in the classroom, the school and events in the community?

  • Are learners encouraged to communicate in a variety of ways?

  • Are there opportunities to make coherent links to learning in other curriculum areas to effectively connect and enhance learners’ experiences?

  • Are e-technologies used effectively to enable and support such learning?


The teacher plans for the class to investigate the effects of exercise on the heart as part of a six-week, cross-curricular project on changing lifestyles. The unit aims to develop team-working and creative skills as well as to address the key concept of healthy active lifestyles.

In carrying out this activity, it is important for the learners to develop the skills to become increasingly independent and to take responsibility for deciding their roles, solving problems and controlling the direction and format of their work.

Learners will work in groups and choose for themselves the activities they will investigate. They will ensure that all members of the group contribute effectively to the outcomes and will use what they find to better understand their bodies and improve their performance.

Learners will be presented with and taught about a range of research methods and encouraged to explore alternative and creative ways to explore, investigate and record, building on their work in science. They will share and demonstrate what they have done and learnt with their class who will evaluate their work using criteria that they have designed and agreed themselves.

This activity involves learners in:

  • selecting and agreeing on the focus, priorities and scale of their investigation and the allocation of roles, for example agreeing the number of activities (independent enquirers, team workers)

  • determining the space, equipment and techniques they will use, considering how to minimise risk and ensuring their own safety and that of others at all times (independent enquirers, team workers)

  • taking responsibility for the quality of their work and providing constructive feedback on the work of others (effective participators, team workers)

  • evaluating their own performance(s) against criteria, providing and receiving feedback, and identifying targets for improvement (effective participators, reflective learners)

  • showing perseverence in completing the project on time (team workers, self-managers).

Are we achieving our aims?

In planning for progression, it is important to develop a clear picture of how learners demonstrate PLTS in the context of teaching and learning in physical education and how those skills can raise achievement in this subject. For example, learners may demonstrate that they are:

  • making personal choices about their learning and identifying ways to improve their work, for example by selecting their own physical activity and setting their own performance targets

  • transferring and extending their understanding across a range of activities, for example from a competitive activity to a challenge type context

  • drawing on their own experiences and making connections between activities in school, at home and in the wider community, for example to value a healthier lifestyle

  • engaging with and applying their competence beyond school contexts for a specific purpose, for example to participate in a national competition or community project.

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