Physical Education (PE) is one of the most important subjects in the primary curriculum. This is shown by the government funding £320million into primary schools with each school getting approximately £18000-20000 to be spent on PE. Currently schools use this money to upscale current teachers, employ PE specialist teachers or to outsource PE to sport organisations who utilise qualified sport coaches to deliver curriculum PE and Extra-curricular activities. Drawing upon Personal experience and discussions with current teachers and senior leaders this article will discuss “Who delivers primary PE?” and “What are the positives and benefits of them?”
Traditionally, general classroom teachers have taken PE and many schools still do this. Classroom teachers are qualified and have been taught to teach PE. Additionally, they will possess the knowledge of the PE Curriculum, understand the needs of all pupils and how to manage their behaviour. However, many teachers will only have 6 -10 hours of overall PE training and then are expected to teach a huge variety of activities and create medium term plans for activities they don’t have any subject knowledge in. For example: A classroom teacher may play a game of Bench-ball but not teach the children any skills within the bench-ball lesson (e.g., technique of throwing/catching; finding space and communication). One could say the teacher has become more of a referee rather than an educator as they are simply doing behaviour management and safety control. Now this isn’t the case for all general class teachers as some do have good knowledge about PE. Nevertheless, from my experience this is the exception and not the rule. One experienced teacher has stated to me that they would rather a sports coach do their PE lesson because they do not like teaching it!
The number of Sport Coaches in schools has risen in recent years since the PE Premium funding entered primary schools. To deliver curriculum PE a sport coach needs to be an National Governing Body Level (NGB) Level 2 Qualified coach in that specific activity. Now I wonder how many people have 8 or more Level 2 Qualifications in different activities. Nonetheless, some sport coaches do have better physical, technical, tactical and mental understanding of sports compared to that of general based teachers. However, sport coaches may lack the ability to teach cross-curricular, lack an understanding of what PE actually and is unaware of the curriculum and of other components of PE (e.g., Physical Literacy, Behaviour Management, Assessment). Therefore, if classroom teachers lack subject specific knowledge and sports coaches lack behaviour management then who should teach it? Since the introduction of the Primary Schools PE funding more than 50% of schools state that they have a PE Specialist in their school.
Through my experience of being first a sports coach, unqualified PE Teacher and now a qualified PE teacher, I believe that the best provision for Primary schools is to have a PE Specialist who works alongside class teachers and sport coaches. Firstly, a PE Specialist has met the professional standards of QTS and has the capability to build and develop their PE Practice daily. In my opinion a PE Specialist will seek out of ways to improve their practice by attending NGB Level 2 Qualifications (e.g., Handball Level 2, Gymnastics Level 2); attend PE Conferences (Workshops) and research in more depth about how to deliver outstanding curricular PE and extra-curricular activities.
Learning is a dynamic process, and, in my opinion, all three positions are can learn from each other to improve the quality of PE. If a school employs a PE Specialist then they will have someone who truly cares for Physical Education, Health, Well-being and Sport. A PE Specialist can give its sporting knowledge to the class teacher, whilst learning themselves about having better behaviour management or assessment techniques. Where a PE Specialist may lack knowledge in a certain sport, a sports coach who is Level 2 qualified in that area can upscale them, whilst learning about the teaching standards, the needs of the pupils and how their sports fits into the PE national curriculum. If done correctly, then there will be a greater understanding of why PE is important and how to deliver outstanding lessons!
In summary the more PE specialists there are in schools the more likely we going to inspire children to become lifelong advocates of regular physical activity and living a healthy lifestyle. Being active has shown to improve children's physical and mental health and well-being.