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Has the financial input into primary school PE really had a positive affect?

by | 7th November 2018

Director of CoachUnlimited, Teresa Hames, shares her thoughts on the actual impact the funding push towards primary school PE is having on the ground.

There is no doubt in my mind that the additional funding into primary school PE has had an overall positive impact.

It has definitely focused the minds of our school leaders into understanding the importance of physical education and made sure it has moved up on the agenda.

It has also definitely improved staff training in PE, in some areas and it has absolutely improved the variety of activities on offer to our children, in some schools.

It has, without doubt, made sure equipment stores have improved, in some places and it has made sure the quality of PE and physical activity has improved in lots of schools.

However, the overriding feeling is that this very much depends on the person or people in charge at each individual school and, in some cases, this comes down to one person.

If the school is lucky, this one person believes in PE, believes in physical activity, understands the positive impact of physicality on mental health, on overall well-being and on life lessons learnt.

This one person ensures a balanced and varied spend of the money across equipment, provision, training, capacity to participate, introduction of new activities and many other areas.

BUT, where this is not the case, I still hear many stories from local professionals where the money is not being used wisely. Take the account below as a prime example of this when I was discussing the positive steps I felt PE in primary schools had made with a fellow teacher. They had recently moved out of the private sector and into the state school sector:

“A couple of things concerned me after reflecting on the PE lessons I have delivered in my first few weeks.

Firstly, the equipment situation at the school was very poor. I asked about ball and cone availability for a very basic first session and was informed all the equipment was available. When I came to set up my lesson I realised there were six balls of the type I needed and three of them were flat!

There were minimal cones and bibs and nowhere near enough to run a session with a whole class. How do I provide a quality, engaging and involving session with three balls between 32 children? Fortunately I had some of my own in the car for a training session that I take out of school, later that evening, which bumped that up to 20.

This leads onto the second issue which is the number of children per class to deal with alone. There were 32 children to oversee, engage and deliver quality PE sessions to? In a classroom setting there is a TA with a class of that size but, for some reason, when it comes to PE, that is often deemed unnecessary.

Without more hands to help, much of the PE lesson becomes dealing with discipline and ‘making it through’ rather than helping the children to learn and improve, at a pace appropriate to them and their individual requirements.”

Having spent a long time talking with my colleague, I really do feel that the impact of the funding is really very dependent on individual school use.

Schools really do need to ask themselves; Are we enhancing the PE experience with our funding? Are we following Government guidelines for spend? Are we letting down pupils due to numbers and equipment? Is PE given the time and value it should be within our school? Are staff engaging with PE to ensure our children get what they deserve in terms of quality, quantity and variety or is this just a box-ticking exercise for us?

At CoachUnlimited we are lucky enough to work with schools that value PE in their learning environment and have that wish to push forwards with new and inspiring ways to use their funding.

But I am concerned for the children at schools without that direction. I am concerned that they will not become life-long participators because they haven’t been given enough opportunity to access high quality, inspiring teaching with the right equipment and personnel. I am concerned that they haven’t had the opportunity to taste a variety of physical activities in order to find the ‘something’ that engages them to continue forever.

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