How PE, physical activity and sport can impact wider school learning outcomes

by Ali Sturla, Development Manager for Whole School Achievement, Youth Sport Trust

In October, the challenge we’re focusing on and helping schools to tackle is ‘Supporting progress and attainment across the whole school’. This blog highlights the case of Deyes High School in Liverpool who has been using their trainee teachers to use the power of PE to impact wider school outcomes with a target group of underachieving Year 7 boys.

The benefits of active learning in the classroom are widely acknowledged in a variety of areas of the curriculum. Global and UK-specific research confirms the positive association between participation in physical activity and academic performance in young people. Physically active children have been found to be have significantly higher test scores and are more likely to go into further and higher education.

The challenge

The data received from the feeder primary schools for KS2 indicated 18 of the incoming Year 7 Pupil Premium students were entering Deyes High with a maths raw score of 100 or less.

Historically, these students have never reached the benchmark of a grade C when entering with this score. Other intervention strategies had previously been implemented to try and tackle this challenge, however none had been successful and had the desired outcome of improving these students grades.

The solution

The school decided to challenge this potential underachievement by using an active approach to teaching maths and measure if it had a positive impact on achievement.

Students involved in the project were asked to attend two 30 minute Active Maths lessons each week over a nine week period. The sessions ran at 8.30am each morning, which meant that these students missed registration on the project days. After consultation with the Maths Department each session was orientated around improving the student’s multiplication skills.

The objectives

Academic impact: Students post test results to show an improvement on the pre-test results; closing the gap on other students in the year group.

Improvement in physical activity levels: The regular activity sessions to improve levels of fitness and meet the DH ambition for students to receive additional physical activity each day.

Development of soft skills: Students to feel that their confidence within maths has increased due to the intervention and their motivation and focus within ‘static’ maths lessons improve. Through the physical part of the programme, teamwork and problem solving skills should have developed and be transferable to other areas of their curriculum.

The impact

Academic impact: The SCITT trainees took ownership of this process and created a pre-intervention test of 120 multiplication questions and these were used again as the post-intervention test. The intervention sessions followed the same format each morning; a physical activity game led by a PE trainee and then a focus on multiplication led by a maths trainee. The headlines indicated that students in the pre-intervention test attempted on average 55.7 questions and correctly answered 44.8 questions in six minutes. In the post-intervention test students attempted on average 59.3 questions and correctly answered 55.2 questions. An improvement in both questions attempted and questions answered correctly in the time allowed.

60% of students increased the number of questions that they attempted and 80% of the students increased the amount of questions that they got correct.

Development of soft skills: Students were asked about their enjoyment, perseverance, confidence and self-esteem in both a pre-intervention questionnaire and post-intervention questionnaire. The pre-intervention questionnaire focused on current maths lessons and their perceptions of it and the post-intervention questionnaire focused on their perception of active maths lessons.


  • 70% of students indicated that they enjoy maths more now than before the project started.
  • 80% of the students strongly agreed or agreed that the active maths sessions had improved their confidence with numbers.
  • When asked in the post-intervention questionnaire whether active maths had made them want to try more challenging maths problems 70% of the students strongly agreed or agreed that it did.
  • 90% of the students in the post intervention strongly agreed or agreed that the active maths sessions had developed their teamwork skills.

YST have a variety of solutions designed to support you to address progress and attainment across the whole school. 

Living for Sport

Living for Sport uses the power of sport to boost confidence, change behaviour and support young people to achieve their personal best in life. Through the use of world class athlete mentors, Living for Sport introduces the six keys to success, components identified by our athletes as essential to managing pressure, stress and performing to the best of their ability. 

Get Exam Fit

Get Exam Fit is a package of support to help students build confidence, manage their physical and emotional wellbeing and achieve their potential in exams. Through four half day athlete mentor visits and resources fro practitioner and pupil, Get Exam Fit will help young people to tackle the declining emotional wellbeing and resilience to enable them to manage stress effectively.

Maths of the Day

Maths of the Day provides online lesson plans and resources to help deliver active maths across the whole curriculum which can assist in transition from Primary into Secondary school.

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