PE teachers at Skegness Grammar in Lincolnshire have found that it can be more profitable to develop pupils' tactical awareness and decision-making ability rather than specific skills and techniques.
Skills tests were given to 96 Year 8 and 9 boys and girls who were divided into two groups. One group was then offered the standard hockey and basketball lessons. The second followed a six-week "Games for Understanding" course which focused on tactics and offered limited skills teaching.
At the end of the trial period, pupils in the second group not only showed a much greater appreciation of when to pass, shoot and dribble, they even out-performed the other group in skill tests and had a more positive attitude towards PE.
Stuart Allison, the school's head of PE, is aware of the danger of over-generalising from a small-scale study but he believes that the games-based approach may also make PE more enjoyable for less physically able pupils.
He says: "A shift to a more games-based approach would also be a positive step towards meeting national curriculum objectives. Children would be able to become more fully involved in planning and evaluation while teachers would have more opportunities and more time to assess these processes."