Slow and study wins the race..


“The original idea of blog publishing was that writer and reader would be on the same level. That it would be a conversation – not a lecture.” (Nick Denton)

This quote highlights the reciprocal and interactive nature of blogging, and how reading someone else’s work can inspire you to write your next blog. As a result, Zachery’s talk on ‘The effects of physical exercise on learning’ and James’ blog on ‘The power of college football’, have inspired my topic for my second post. Too often we like to focus on the positives of the current education system, however recognising its flaws can help progress pedagogy. Thus, my post this week will be on improvements to Physical Education in schools.

It would be naive to argue against the importance of physical education classes. There are numerous psychological and academic benefits to playing sport, including increased self-esteem and confidence (Ofsted, 2013; Bailey, 2006), and improved social skills such as teamwork (Bailey, 2006). If taught properly, engaging in physical education will encourage children to participate in an active lifestyle beyond their education (Ofsted, 2013).

However, the current system does not benefit all students. If an individual struggles at maths, they are often provided additional learning support so they can reach their potential within this area. However, if a student struggles at P.E., they are buried under the competitive nature of the subject, which will reinforce their dislike. The students’ lack of motivation towards P.E. may cause them to think their sporting ability is unchangeable (Wang et al., 2002). This could potentially alienate them from participating in sport from a young age (Kirk & Kinchin, 2003), which may contribute to the increasing number of overweight individuals in society. It is therefore important that the education system ensures that children can gain control of their ability and be motivated to do so, in order to increase activity levels.

It is clear that children with limited physical abilities are often left unconsidered in physical education while at school. Prior to GCSEs, there is more focus on a student’s physical performance and less on their academic ability in this subject. Therefore, how can a student who is not talented at playing sports, but could excel in sporting research or theory, be motivated to pursue this direction at GCSE level if schools have not previously allowed them to explore their academic ability?

Pupils should always be given a choice. Alternative, non-competitive exercise such as aerobics should be provided to increase participation (Ofsted, 2013), and theory lessons before Key Stage 4 for those interested in sports research. These theory lessons may also help tackle the obesity problem, teaching students about the risks associated with obesity. A review by Kahn et al (2002) found that classroom-based health education can increase students’ self-efficacy about sport, so long as the programme is effective. Ideally, this would help them recognise the importance of sport and exercise, and become more motivated to take part in both. 71% of boys and 84% of girls in the obese category wanted to do more physical exercise (NHS, 2013), and increasing their self-efficacy may help them reach their goals.

Physical education before Key Stage 4 often involves situated learning, with the majority of adults unlikely to still pursue the sports they played at school (Kirk & Kinchin, 2003). Siedentop’s Sport Education Model provides a more transferable system. Real sporting procedures are used, for example pupils sticking to one team for the duration of the ‘season’.  The teams will have practice sessions and take part in competition, with the teams’ points recorded. This increases the sense of teamwork for both high and low-ability players. Alternative opportunities such as scorekeeper, team manager and equipment officer are provided, allowing low ability pupils to feel more involved, and knowledgeable about the games (Kirk & Kinchin, 2003).

Conversely, following on from my blog last week about ensuring gifted and talented pupils are not held back in education, it is important to ensure that any changes increasing participation within the sport curriculum does not detriment the effort put into students excelling at sport. An alternative solution to this is to create ‘game afternoons’, where students are grouped by ability. This allows the pupils who excel to focus on performance, whilst those who struggle can focus on enjoyment and engagement, with tasks broken down into smaller, more achievable steps (Ofsted, 2013).  It is debatable as to whether the sports education model of entire class involvement, or grouped ability classes would benefit the entire student cohort best.

Education is about balance, and personalising physical education to individuals’ abilities is a successful method in ensuring all pupils are engaged with the subject. However, in my opinion this isn’t enough. Students who have limited talent in playing sport should be given opportunities to learn the theory of sport, research areas of interest and gain an enjoyment for the subject prior to GCSE, so that they are more likely to pursue it at higher education. The fact that a student, passionate about the benefits of physical activity on health cannot catch a ball or win a race, should not prevent them from reaching their potential.


10 responses »

  1. As I commented on Kathrines[1] blog about religious education it brought me to understand that subjects like R.E and P.E aren’t academic, and they are in the curriculum to foster a different type of education to their academic counterparts. While subjects like maths and welsh (or english) are an intellectual skill learned through practise, the purpose of religious or physical education is to foster virtues tolerance or healthy behaviour.
    Studies show the cognitive impairments and their biological origins for people with obesity (Farr et al, 2008). For students to be on the best cognitive stand, sport should be established in schools to teach a life skill, because the current culture of training to ‘win the game’ does, as you say, turn you off if you don’t enjoy a given sport. This claim is based off the historicity that winning represented the virtues of persistence and practise, which attitudes carry across to other domains (Reid, 1998).
    Therefore I agree that a daily physical education component would go a lot further in building people academically and for the real world. For this is why we learn.

    [1] – Kathrines Blog:

    Farr, S. A., Yamada, K. A., Butterfield, D. A., Abdul, H. M., Xu, L., Miller, N. E., … & Morley, J. E. (2008). Obesity and hypertriglyceridemia produce cognitive impairment. Endocrinology, 149(5), 2628-2636. Retrieved from

    Reid, H. L. (1998). Sport, education, and the meaning of victory. Proceedings of the Twentieth World. Retrieved from

  2. Having a very sporty background and actively taking part in numerous school sport teams, from my experiences less sporty students do not want to actively take part in P.E. especially when it comes to team based environments.

    After reading through Ofsted’s 2013 report you referenced, they stated about P.E.that:

    “the main weaknesses were the teachers’ limited subject knowledge and use of assessment which led to superficial planning and insufficient challenge, particularly for the more able pupils.”

    However even though i would agree with what you are stating in your blog that all children should be taught the theory side of P.E. from a younger age. I doubt their is sufficient qualified teachers to make this proposition a reality.

    Conversly, add to your argument physical activity is also shown to improve test scores (Castelli, Hillman, Buck & Erwin, 2007), therefore i see no reason for more theory to be taught to increase self-efficacy and get more people active. The question is, is their enough qualified teachers to teach theory to younger children?


    Castelli, D. M., Hillman, C. H., Buck, S. M., & Erwin, H. E. (2007). Physical fitness and academic achievement in third-and fifth-grade students. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 29(2), 239.

  3. Since September 2013, the National Curriculum changed to state that teachers of Key stages 1 and 2 can develop their own curriculum in PE to ensure that the needs of the children are met. This means that in primary schools teachers are able to develop new and innovative methods of teaching PE to keep it engaging and at the correct level for students. Through doing this, it is hoped, that children will develop a passion for sport from a young age and will want to continue progressing in their chosen sport.
    After doing physical exercise there are many changes to the body and the state of mind. Often in school children look forward to PE because it could be used as a stress reliever, vent anger or just to clear the mind a bit. Through doing exercise children are able to let off steam and then go back into the lesson with a clear head and ready to learn. If PE became more about the psychology or research behind it, I believe more individuals would become uninterested in the topic. Further to this, keeping children in uninvolved lessons with no release of energy throughout the week could prove damaging. Research completed using animals showed that exercise increases neuronal survival, learning and protects against cognitive decline (Cotman, 2002). This shows that by participating in exercise can help to enhance learning.
    Cotman. (2002). Exercise enhances and protects brain function. Exercise Sport Science Review, 75-79.

  4. Great blog Hannah, I can totally see your point about non-competitive sports being supported and integrated into the curriculum. During primary school education most of what we learned was sports education but when it comes to high school it turns solely into sports education; and It definitely seems like a distinction could be made.
    It is important for children to not be excluded from physical education; especially not due to a lack of ability. However one study shows additional benefits in the implement of team sports. In a meta-analysis of peer reviewed journals it was found to promote personal and social development as well as increasing a student’s responsibility, cooperation and trust skills. One potential problem of team sports is student leadership could cause exclusion of players of lower abilities. Therefore, I must agree with your concept of creating classes of differing abilities where possible. This allows children to get the exercise they need as well as helping improve their interpersonal social development skills.

  5. I think that P.E is quite an important aspect in high school. However, I must admit that I don’t believe the theory behind it is very important until GCSEs. Personally, I see P.E as a way for students to wind down after the work that they put into their academic studies. Making the students learn the theory before they actually decide that they want to could turn them off P.E making them think it’s just another academic subject, which it isn’t really until you get to GCSE.

    In terms of competitive and non competitive sport and splitting classes into abilities, I think it’s wise to split people into abilities because then the high ability students can reach as high as they want to and the low ability students don’t have to try too hard. However, just because a student classes as a high ability student, it doesn’t mean that they enjoy competitive sport, and the students who get placed into the low ability group may want to pursue competitive sports. So would it not make more sense to place them into those two categories?

  6. I find it very hard to read this blog and not relate it back to my time in school. From what I can tell, my school tried to implement most of the suggestions that you have made. This even includes the Siedentop’s Sport Education Model and non-competative activities. Despite this, there were a large number who didn’t find sport engaging. Though one of the good things my school did was use the more athletic students to provide additional coaching to the less athletic students. They did this for rugby and rounders, the benefit was that they often got direct tuition and improved rapidly as a result.

  7. I think that students not being able to recognise the potential they have in the theoretical side of sport is a really good point. It is possible of course that these potentials could be realised through a passion for sport, alongside high academic achievement or interest in statistics, maths or biology for example, but the point remains that these aspects of sport are not brought together until later in the education process than the subjects singularly.

    In terms of your suggestion about bringing theory lessons into sport earlier in education, I think this is a good way to encourage children who do not enjoy practising sport to continue learning about the benefits of exercise for example. Furthermore, research has suggested that where students are autonomously motivated, they learn and retain more than students who are less autonomously motivated (Grolnick & Ryan, 1987). Applying this to sport, it may be the case that if a student is interested in the theoretical aspect of physical education, sport and exercise, a better grade may be achieved because the student will be intrinsically motivated to learn about this subject. If the grade for physical education was comprised of both the physical and the theoretical components earlier in education, a student who is not naturally talented in the practise of sport still stands a chance of getting a good grade for the theoretical component. Alternatively, physical education as a practical class allows students who may not achieve highly academically to achieve a good grade based on sporting performance, if that is where their interest lies.

    For young children, it may not be appropriate to teach theory lessons at a level directly relevant to sport. However topics such as anatomy, and the role of muscles, and respiration could be highlighted in biology as an important part of sport and exercise. If this knowledge of how anatomy and such topics can be related to sport is included from a young age it may also develop interests into careers such as physiotherapy, which again may not be realised otherwise. It is also important to recognise not only the health benefits of physical education for as many as 97% of young children (Sallis, McKenzie, Alcaraz, Kolody, Faucette & Hovell, 1997), but also the cognitive and academic benefits, despite the time taken from other subjects in order to include physical education (Trudeau & Shepard, 2008).

    Grolnick and Ryan, 1987:

    Sallis, McKenzie, Alcaraz, Kolody, Faucette and Hovell, 1997:

    Trudeau and Shepard, 2008:

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