How to tackle the new PE curriculum

In September, England's curriculum is changing for key stages 1, 2 and 3. This week, teachers reveal how they are approaching PE


At first glance, the new curriculum for PE doesn't look too different; in fact, we initially thought it was just a scaled-down version of the existing document. However, we soon realised that this was actually an exciting opportunity for change and a chance to take an innovative approach to curriculum design.

The purpose and aims of the new curriculum clearly set out the focal points. Key vocabulary should inspire a curriculum design that continues to allow for the holistic approach that makes PE so important. The continuation of the Olympic legacy is evident, as is the focus on competition and the drive for children to achieve their personal best.

The emphasis on health, fitness and physical confidence for life supports our school's existing philosophy. Although subject content is narrowed, it provides a springboard for skill development and activity mapping. The development of fundamental movement skills is at the heart of the KS1 content. The extension of this into KS2 is evident, along with the much-needed focus on the process of ongoing evaluation and improving performance.

Our starting point was to draw out the key vocabulary and what it means for students. How could we personalise the curriculum so that children achieve their best and develop a lifelong love of being active?

For us, it was essential that evaluating and improving performance continued to be a key development area at KS1. On first inspection, it appears that the emphasis is on games. However, it is vital to develop movement skills through a range of activities. Our role is to educate children and a narrow offer is not the way to do this. A balanced range of activities is crucial at KS2 so that students are engaged through new experiences.

As a team, we have taken the threshold concepts and are building a skills ladder to ensure that children can map their development and be clear about what comes next. The ultimate aim has been to challenge the children; the threshold concepts are a minimum. By introducing bronze, silver and gold challenges, we will create an evidence-based log that the children can build on.

Hannah Vecchione teaches at St John's RC Primary School and Anita Richardson teaches at Our Lady's RC Primary School, both in Manchester


Overall, I feel very positive about implementing the new KS3 national curriculum. However, assessing without levels continues to be a discussion point. On one hand, there is concern that removing levels will reduce the opportunity to highlight progress. On the other hand, levels can act as a glass ceiling - students often do not look beyond their target level.

During the summer term we took the opportunity to meet regularly and review our current offer. We welcome the succinct and clear KS3 curriculum, ensuring that teachers are at the heart of delivering high-quality PE and sport. As a director of sport, I am particularly pleased that there is a desire for students to "take part in competitive sports and activities outside school through community links or sports clubs". Our links with the community have been a real strength in our pursuit of excellence.

At coordinators' meetings, we have been encouraged to consider where are we now and where we want to be. It has been important to highlight the whole-school picture before implementing changes in one department. We have decided to initially keep levels for termly reports. However, any new lesson resource will reinforce "how to close the gap" and not emphasise the levels that pupils are working at.

The new curriculum distinctly states that "schools are not required by law" to teach the example activities identified. Therefore, we are developing a plan solely to fit the needs of our students and our links with local sport provision.

PE and sport is also diversifying, so it is pleasing to see reference being made to developing competence "to excel in a broad range of physical activities". It is not always possible for students to experience a breadth of activities on the curriculum alone, so that is why an innovative extracurricular programme is key.

Our school promotes a clear message - achievement, excellence, participation and leadership - that goes hand in hand with the new curriculum. We are looking forward to keeping students active and hope that our approach will encourage large numbers of pupils to opt to study PE at KS4.

To quote the curriculum, "a high-quality PE curriculum inspires all students to succeed and excel in competitive sport and other physically demanding activities throughout life".

Simon Russell is director of sport at Swavesey Village College in Cambridgeshire

A look inside the new PE curriculum

General information

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