Imagine working in a place where good physical health is like blood running through the vascular system of its culture. Where everyone has the physical literacy to engage positively in physical activity. Where everyone chooses to run, push, pull, ache and sweat through regular exercise. And where everyone is resilient, alert to learn and in good mental and social health.
I have taught Physical Education since 2001. I began in a rural mixed comp. before moving to a sports college in London. From here I became Head of PE at a neighbouring school. Pausing for a year to work as a personal trainer, I reset my teaching compass and returned to education in the coveted role of Director of Sport at St Paul’s Juniors – a leading independent boys’ school for 7-13 year olds.
In all of these roles, I had a transformational approach towards Physical Education. I have always been passionate about blending high quality ‘physical activity for all’ and ‘elite sport’. In five fantastic years at St Paul’s Juniors, we celebrated this philosophy. I could have stayed for another 25. But I have a burning ambition to make a positive impact on more pupils in more schools, through the vehicle of physical education.
In 2016, I took up this challenge with two key beliefs: 1. Pupils’ perceptions towards Physical Education are fairly fixed in primary school. 2. Primary schools often have limited resources for this multi-faceted subject. So I decided to choose one essential focus.
Call to action – To positively engage all pupils in Physical Education by the time they leave primary school.
Many on here will say positive engagement is about enjoyment and they are right. But a pupil who cannot support his or her own bodyweight does not enjoy learning a handstand, however well it is taught and differentiated. To engage well in a physical education, pupils must be physically literate – physically competent, confident and motivated. These qualities are all underpinned by physical health.
By forming cross-sector partnerships, and working alongside the department for education, this ambition is in reach. Developing all pupils’ understanding of how to keep physically healthy and celebrating a school culture for physical health are the key ingredients.
We must support schools with simple solutions through which all pupils want to be more physically active. Since 2016, I have delivered a one lesson physical health session in 50 primary schools. This lesson involves inclusive challenges which inform, engage, monitor and motivate all pupils – driving behavioural change. We must encourage all pupils to run, push, pull, ache and sweat. For two years, I have taught weekly 20 min. foundation exercise sessions to 120 pupils in a North Bristol primary school. This school has recorded a 42% increase in physical health since this programme’s inception.