'Not enough strenuous activity' in school PE


How fee paying independent schools compare with state schools

Related Stories

There is not enough strenuous, physical activity in many of England's school PE lessons, education inspectors say.

Teachers tend to talk too much in sessions and often lack specialist training, the Ofsted report on primary and secondary PE adds.

It also highlights the fact that only a minority of schools play competitive sport at high level.

The government says its draft PE curriculum will put competitive sport back at the heart of school life.

Ofsted inspectors visited 120 primaries and 110 secondaries over a four-year period.

Olympic legacy

Overall the report said PE teaching was good or outstanding in two-thirds of the primary schools it visited, and three-quarters of the secondary schools it saw. This was an improvement on the results of its last survey in 2008, it said.

And it put much of this down to the School Sports Partnership programme, saying its impact in "maximising participation and increasing competition was clearly evident in the vast majority of schools visited".

The programme was scrapped by Education Secretary Michael Gove but partially reinstated on a dramatically reduced budget following an outcry from heads, schools and politicians.

Start Quote

We found there often wasn't enough physical, strenuous activity in PE lessons”

End Quote Sir Michael Wilshaw Ofsted chief inspector

But Ofsted warned that sustaining this level of improvement would be challenging against the "backdrop of greater expectations following last summer's London Games".

And called for a new national strategy building on the success of the School Sports Partnership Programme.

Stamina and strength

However the report found some important positive point, with most schools providing at least two hours of PE a week for pupils aged five to 14.

And only a fifth of primary schools did not ensure that all pupils could swim before they left.

However, it was concerns about the content and nature of some PE lessons than in some weaker lessons that chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw highlighted.

He said: "Generally, PE in our schools is in good health, but there are some issues the report highlights as areas for improvement. In particular, we found there often wasn't enough physical, strenuous activity in PE lessons.

"Some teachers talked for too long and pupils were not provided with enough activity to enable them to learn or practise their skills.

"In many of the schools visited, the more able pupils were not challenged sufficiently because teachers' expectations of them were too low.

"Schools with the best PE provision enabled pupils to achieve well by providing an ever increasing range of extra-curricular and traditional activities."

Expert analysis: The BBC's Dan Roan explains why cutting a key partnership with secondary school PE teachers has left primary school sport lagging behind

The report added: "In weaker lessons, pupils were not challenged to warm up vigorously or build stamina and strength by participating in sustained periods of physical activity.

"They were often prevented from exercising for extended periods because teachers interrupted their learning or took too long to introduce new tasks."

The report also found very few schools had adapted PE programmes to deal with the needs of overweight and obese pupils.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "We want all children to be given the opportunities they need to be fit and healthy. The draft PE curriculum published last week is designed to put competitive sport back at the heart of school life and end the damaging 'prizes for all' culture.

'Teacher training'

"We are also extending the School Games and spending £1bn on youth sport over the next five years.

"In addition we are working across government on a range of measures to improve PE and school sport as part of the Olympic and Paralympic legacy and will make an announcement in due course."

Shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan said: "As leading sports personalities have warned, under this government the Olympic legacy is at risk.

"Ministers must restore the requirement that pupils do a minimum of two hours of PE a week - the numbers of pupils doing two hours of sport has collapsed from 90% under Labour to 50% now."

But the DfE said: "The two-hour target was never a rule - it was an unenforceable aspiration that schools were free to ignore. We are freeing teachers from such unnecessary targets and paperwork which take up too much time better used in the classroom or at the running track."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Sport in schools is fit and healthy and beating its own records. Delivering two hours of PE a week in today's packed curriculum is a fantastic achievement."


Baroness Sue Campbell, chairman of the Youth Sports' Trust, said it was worrying that fewer primary schools are achieving outstanding PE than their secondary counterparts.

"From our own research we know that primary school teachers are not receiving adequate training in how to deliver an effective PE experience and this can leave teachers lacking the confidence and competence to deliver the subject effectively."

National Union of Teachers' general secretary Christine Blower said: "All the criticisms that Ofsted had of schools sports were being addressed by the Schools Sports Partnership.

"This was specialist PE teachers working across primary schools to add capacity and bring high quality, specialist, exciting teaching to children. It has been all but shut down by the coalition government."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 630.

    The article showed up many things that struck me as being part of the problem.

    Blaming cuts, talking about structures etc - primary PE should be just basic common sense, not the Normandy Landing it's being made into.

    My primary school had a reasonable sized gym/assembly hall, a playground and a bit of a field. We basically ran around all the time. And there was less money in the system then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    @611 FamilyGuy sends the socialists running for a dictionary! Hurrah!

    Makes you wonder what it must be like getting up in the morning knowing that their entire life is based on hatred and envy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    @582 chocolate_starfish: "how are the less well off supposed to choose the best education in your free market utopia?"

    They'd be able to choose from across the spectrum of [low to high quality] and [low to high price], but even those low quality schools would be higher quality than socialist schools, because they would be more free, and would be driven by market forces and competition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 627.

    I wasn't particularly sporty at school but I learned to enjoy it, plus it was a good break away from the classroom!

    Two 40min PE sessions and one afternoon games session per week.

    But our school had grass playing fields, swimming pool, tennis courts, sports hall (badminton/basketball/squash), astroturf pitches.

    That's why sport was so easy to do... you provide the facilities and it will happen

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    For all the years that PE was compulsary I hated it to the core. I felt that the little potential I had to do well in games was destroyed by the lack of interest teachers showed and bullying which is most common in PE lessons. I feel that physical activity is most needed in the curriculum. I think that there should be 20 mins or so rigorous exercise daily in the morning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 625.

    Sports can teach people discipline, team work and obviously improves general health. It is so important kids get these skills early. Too many kids now want to sit infront of a computer and become obese. I am sure there is an activity for everyone to enjoy and winning isnt the most important thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    You know what would get girls, particularly, exercising? Zumba classes. Aerobics classes with music. Decent gym equipment like treadmills, exercise bikes and rowing machines. More women, as adults, take part in these things than anything like hockey, netball or tennis. Give teenage girls the choice to exercise in this way and watch them sign up enthusiastically instead of forgetting their gym kit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    @593 KM0606 you know nothing about me or my life. you know nothing of my achievements or what i have overcome to accomplish them. you make these statements from your ignorance and it shows how small you are. I am at the pinnacle of my profession. are you? every person in my profession knows my name. can you say the same? did i get there by competition? not at all. your vision is tiny, sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    Perhaps if Cameron had not sold off all the school fields, we could have kids playing sport.
    Noticed a lot of anti competitive sport comments here. I for one loved it all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 621.

    618. Bored

    "Those who can't, teach"

    We all bow to your manifestly superior debating skills.

  • Comment number 620.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 619.


    For us wearing the thinnest t-shirt and shorts in the freezing weather whilst the PE teachers wore layers and tracksuits was a form of torture. Plus if you had an injury or illness that prevented you doing PE, you had to stand and watch next to your teacher. Which for some conditions, made it worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 618.

    @591 Anglerfish

    Read the context in which I made that comment and how I prefaced it.

    Telling people to grow up is a(nother) non-argument. You've got as many debating skills as DW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 617.

    Would it help if I pointed to the many hundreds of research papers that say aerobic exercise can improve memory and executive functioning in
    school-age youth? That regular physical activity significantly improves perceptual skills, IQ, scores on verbal and mathematics tests, concentration, memory, achievement (as measured by a combination of standardised test scores and grades) and cognition?

  • Comment number 616.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 615.

    586 - Bastiat
    Yes Bastiat everything is taxed. The problem here in the UK is our tax system. Unfair and disorganised. It has all the worst aspects of the American system for tax avoidance and all the worst systems of VAT being exploited by any government.

    If you lose your job/old/disabled/pension etc., you still pay tax indirectly via VAT - going where? Nobody knows. There is no transparency:(

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    I was at school in the 70s and our PE sessions were strenuous and done in all weathers, including swimming in an unheated outdoor pool from March to October. It wasn't relevant whether you enjoyed it or not. I was knocked out in a hockey game and a classmate was concussed by a rounders ball - these days that would no doubt result in a court case.

  • Comment number 613.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    Comparing my (non-sporty) kids in private schools with their state schools cousins shows that state schools need -

    specialised sports teachers (shared with other schools if necessary)
    extended day to fit in extra-curriula activity (my Yr6 starts @ 8, finishes @ 3.40)
    increased use of local sports centres to offer general fitness training, martial arts, rock climbing as alternatives

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    @603 family guy

    QED... A positive blog Immediately voted down by lazy, disinterested, cynical nihilists, who wallow in mediocrity out of deference to the finest traditions of socialist cant... zero passion for life, humanity, progression, and achievement.

    I wish they'd all go and live in North Korea where they can be happy.


Page 9 of 40


More Education & Family stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.