PE: Improving bodies and minds
It’s common knowledge physical exercise is vital for keeping our bodies in good shape but the benefits of Physical Education in school extend far beyond the sports field.
In 2020, after the national lockdown, children’s charity Youth Sport Trust carried out a survey of 1,396 young people aged 6–15 to discover how they now felt about sport and exercise. Over a quarter said physical education, sport and exercise had made them feel better during that time. Additionally, 40% said not being able to play sport had made them feel worse. Clearly, sport and exercise has a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.
At Murrayfield it’s easy to see the positive effects PE has on our pupils. In lessons following PE their attention is noticeably greater, their ability to focus is far better. And in the long-term PE builds self-confidence, reduces anxiety and improves self-esteem. It also helps children develop attributes which help them cope with difficulties and setbacks.
In PE lessons, we take a skills-based approach. Rather than simply playing different sports and games, lessons are designed to improve the fundamental movement skills – running, jumping, hand-eye coordination, balance, agility, throwing and catching – especially in the younger year groups. This way pupils can develop these core abilities which are used in multiple sports and physical activities. Then when they come to play different sports, which are usually introduced around upper Key Stage Two, students will be competent in the necessary skills the sport requires, whether it’s throwing a ball in cricket, jumping in basketball or having the hand-eye coordination to play a racquet sport such as badminton.
When it comes to choosing between fitness and getting children healthy versus simply playing team games and having fun, we work on creating a good balance. For example, after lockdown children had lost much of the fitness they had previously developed so for an entire term the focus was working hard to get them back to the level of fitness where they were previously. After that we incorporated games too, to reintroduce the other aspect of PE.
To be able to track our pupil’s progress effectively, measurement is really important. We use five assessments each term to check how they’re improving in areas such as speed, fitness, coordination and strength. We then use that data to adjust our lessons accordingly, so the pupils continue to make progress, term after term.
At the core of sport is competition, which is important for helping pupils develop a winning mental attitude and equipping them to handle both success and failure. To do this we take part in inter-school competition, both within and outside our Trust, including SEN-specific contests. As well as teaching pupils about sportsmanship and respect, it fosters a sense of friendly rivalry and school pride, and boosts morale and self-esteem. PE is an essential part of our curriculum that builds strong character and develops qualities in pupils which are beneficial in all subjects, as well as their lives beyond school.