In response to statements made in a recent facebook post.
I understand that I am providing opinion based only on my own qualifications and experiences. I do however have a pretty good track record in Physical Education. Prior to setting up Gymrun, I worked as a qualified PE teacher, personal trainer, Head of PE and Director of Sport in a wide range of school settings for 14 years. I appreciate that yours is a differing and well-informed worldview. To have differing opinions and to be able to communicate these positively and constructively is a priviledge.
You are absolutely right, these are fitness challenges. I began by calling this a fitness assessment. Fitness can be perceived as limited to the subject area of PE. The term physical health has greater reach. I recognise that physical health relates to other areas such as nutrition and sleep, but fitness is a key part of this term. Below is the dictionary definition:
‘Physical health is defined as the condition of your body, taking into consideration everything from the absence of disease to fitness level.’ Here is how I introduce this session:
‘This is about your physical health and fitness. We want you to think about your physical health. By this we mean ‘how well you feel in your body’. Mental health is to do with how well you feel in your mind. Social health is to do with how well you relate to other people. All of these areas are really important and they are all linked. Yes, this is about PE. But this is about much more than PE. With improved physical health, you will be more alert at the end of the school day, more resilient/less likely to give up when challenged, and you will have improved mental and social health. Research shows that improved physical health will even improve your learning.’
I have listed below three/six strands of the NC Programme of Study for PE in KS2. These three areas are covered by the Gymrun assessment (all in one lesson). Pupils should be taught to:
-Use running, jumping, (throwing and catching) in isolation and in combination
-Develop flexibility, strength, technique, control and balance (for example, through athletics and gymnastics)
-Compare their performances with previous ones and demonstrate improvement to achieve their personal best
I completely agree with you that levelling is a contentious issue in education. I believe that in order to progress every child, school stakeholders need to know what each individual child can and can’t do. There is insufficient time in schools to monitor this at great length for a subject as broad as PE – which receives little curriculum time (as we both know). The level in itself is unimportant (and played down), but the vehicle it provides for engaging all children – when communicated appropriately – can be truly inspirational.
Giving badges implies competition against others (should be avoided for anything related to fitness, and not good practice for PE anyway)
Award badges have provided tremendous participation motivation for hundreds of thousands of children, both in physical activities and beyond, for years. Should we remove Swimming, Gymnastics, Athletics and all other award badges from schools? Children will always compare themselves with others. They will compete against others to an unhealthy extent when this behaviour is reinforced to them by external influences, such as teachers and parents. I am diametrically opposed to this. Here is what I say to all classes:
‘This is not about being the best in your class, or comparing yourself to others. This is about personal competition. About being your personal best. This is about finding out what you can do today, identifying your strengths and your areas for development. You can then use this information to work on these areas before coming back to repeat these challenges and celebrate the progress you have made as a result of your hard work.’
I have taught this assessment personally to more than 6,000 pupils in over 50 schools. A child may be upset for a short period of time to learn that they cannot support their bodyweight to perform a dip, or run for three minutes without walking. I share this situation as a positive learning opportunity with the class. I encourage all pupils to challenge themselves to the point of failure, which will be different for everyone. I reinforce that this type of failure facilitates learning and should be encouraged. To those who may question assessment of physical health, and quite often to classes, I promote a transparent culture:
‘We may momentarily upset a child who cannot support their bodyweight, but in doing so provide them with the tools and the understanding to go away and improve on this, by practicing a dip with bent legs on a sofa or bed at home. Eventually they will be able to do a dip with straight legs. And then a few more dips. They will return to this session next time with a huge sense of achievement, as they demonstrate progress. The alternative is to brush this reality under the carpet. The likelihood here is they will not be able to support their bodyweight throughout secondary school, and for the rest of their life. This is about developing an understanding of how to keep physically healthy in all children, and providing progressive steps towards achieving this – through nutrition, sleep and exercise.’
What are the key outcomes from PE for all children by the end of primary school? I believe that by the age of eleven, all children should be able to; move with increasing speed; engage their core; support their bodyweight; jump with increasing power; and run without tiring. These are basics of physical competence and make up our five challenges. I want us to think differently and to focus on less outcomes, but for all children.
I acknowledge there is so much more to PE that is arguably of fantastic value, but believe it is reasonable for children to work towards these five objective, measurable and realistic goals. With this greater physical competence, children are more likely to exhibit the confidence and the motivation they need to become more physically literate. More physically literate children engage more positively and more frequently in physical activities. From this starting point, children will enjoy the wider range of developmental outcomes – personal, social, cognitive, creative, emotional (and physical) – available through their PE experiences.
This is a clear assessment for learning approach. Carefully considered and inclusive assessment informs, engages, motivates and monitors all children. Without formative and summative assessment, how do we really know if our provision is making any impact on all of the children in our care? This is the greatest challenge in primary school PE today. What are our key outcomes for all children by the age of eleven, and how do we know which children are progressing, which children are flatlining, and which children are regressing in their pursuit of these outcomes?
We have data on 20,000 pupils which implies (because the project is less than four years old) that children with high levels of physical health continue to improve. And that children with low levels of physical health stay the same or regress. These are the least active children who are the most at risk of becoming sedentary adults. This is a result of a multitude of factors. But wouldn’t it be great if we could reflect upon our PE delivery in schools against what is actually happening in terms of the physical development of all children (instead of against the boxes we are told that we must tick), and then make adjustments to our provision based on this actual impact?
This assessment is driving positive behaviour changes in schools. These behaviour changes are leading to improved physical health in more children by the age of eleven. This is a significant step forward in tackling childhood obesity. We need to prioritise additional provision for the least active and most at risk children. Fun and inclusive assessment informs, engages, monitors, motivates and frames these childrens’ future behaviours.
Gymrun was designed with the physical health, physical literacy and wellbeing of all children firmly in mind, by someone who is living this journey for the right reasons.