Getting ahead - priorities for a PE subject leader

Katie Chapman, Executive Head of PE, Little Common School, East Sussex tells us how to get organised in term one and set your priorities for the year ahead.

Term one of an academic year for a PE subject leader can often seem busy and overwhelming, with so many tasks to do and sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. Understanding what your priorities are is the best way to get organised and can help to get those PE cylinders firing, ready for the year ahead.

How to begin to prioritise
Even an experienced subject lead feels there’s a lot to do in term one, so if you are new to PE leadership, it can feel daunting. This is why prioritising helps me to stay on track. To begin with, I start by grouping different areas that need sorting first. My main priorities for term one are:

  • Curriculum and PE aims for the year ahead
  • Competition, clubs and pupil leadership.

If I get these things in place by the end of term one, then the rest of the year feels less pressurised.

Curriculum priorities
Getting the curriculum right and ensuring my pupils are receiving a high-quality PE curriculum helps to set the scene for the rest of my PE and school sport offer. This involves knowing what is being taught, when and who by. Think about these questions:

  • If all your staff teach PE or you have external coaches, are they clear what they are teaching and why? YST Membership includes a staff survey guide for all primary stage teachers which allows you to target your support and training and gain whole staff buy in to your leadership of PE.
  • Is there clear progression within the curriculum?
  • What are the end points? That is, where do you want pupils to be at the end of each unit of work and by the end of Year 6?

With the curriculum as my initial focus, this also means thinking about whether the right resources are in place. Having an organised resources area allows whoever is teaching PE to have everything they need to teach lessons effectively. Surely I’m not the only one who hates an untidy PE shed!

Of course, if you are new to leading PE, your main aim will be getting to know what is going on within your subject. Start by having a discussion with your head teacher, speaking to other staff members, scrutinising previous planning and observing some PE lessons. For help with your planning see the YST Curriculum Blueprint here.

PE aims for the year ahead
Having aims or actions within PE helps to structure my year. But how do I come up with these and ensure they are focussed, measurable and will have impact? The main sources of information I use are:

  1. Previous PE and Sport Premium reports and the YST Quality Mark. What are my areas for development based on the data, outcomes and achievements from the report?
  2. School Improvement Plan – I link my targets and aims to the whole school targets for this year. This ensures they remain a whole school focus and that I have the support of the leadership team. This is crucially important for delivering a successful PE and Sport offer.
  3. Staff Continuous Professional Development (CPD) – this is a high priority for me as a subject lead. Listening to your staff, as well as understanding your curriculum needs can help you plan what CPD you need across the year. Staff CPD is also key indicator one on the sports premium report and is an effective and sustainable way to use your funding. CPD is included in all levels of the YST Membership package.

Setting up your competitions and extra-curricular club offer
Getting ahead and knowing when competition dates are is useful to feel more organised. If you are not sure where to start, follow these steps to access competitions this term.

  • Are you part of a School Games partnership? If not, I thoroughly recommend joining your local one.
  • Find out what competitions are running across the year. Your School Games Organiser should send this out. If not, ask for a calendar. I access the majority of my competition offer this way.
  • Once you have the calendar, start to think about what competitions you can attend. Who can support you? This will include drafting letters, creating risk assessments, knowing what pupils will attend and how will you get there. My best bit of advice is to book transport early!

Ensuring pupils have opportunities to be active
Offering extra-curricular provision is something I feel passionate about. This means ensuring my club timetable is in place and ready to begin at the start of the new year. In all honesty, I start this the previous academic year so we can get started as soon as term one begins. The most important thing when organising this is to consider which groups of pupils will benefit the most? Is the club run by a high-quality coach or staff member? As your club offer develops over the year, you can begin to think more about what the pupils want, but also what they need. Look at the YST Youth Engagement Guide to ensure youth voice, co-creation and collaboration are used effectively with guidance and support in the creation of pupil surveys, focus groups and co-design approaches.

Embedding pupil leadership
Embedding pupil leadership at the start of the year paves the way for success in PE and sport. Pupils leading at play and lunchtimes, supporting in lessons and helping to lead and organise helps to ensure that all pupils are active. This area also links into my staff CPD focus and contributes towards our daily Active 60 minutes target. Most importantly, this links into pupil wellbeing and has a direct impact on behaviour across the school.

If this is an area you want to establish, start with small groups of pupils in term one. Your local School Games Organiser can provide leadership training to pupils to help you get this process started. Your pupils really are your most valuable asset.

Keeping track of your tasks
My final suggestion would be to record your priorities as you are doing them. I create a table so that when I come to doing this all again next year, I will know exactly what needs to be done and when. Because when all the components of your PE leadership are firing properly, you can achieve maximum impact.

Katie Chapman and Founder of Complete P.E. Catherine Fitzpatrick joined us for the Member Exclusive ‘Welcome to the Term’ autumn term webinar specifically developed for primary schools. During the webinar, Katie and Catherine covered an update on the national landscape, auditing PE provision, and examples of success. Members can access a recording of the webinar via their membership dashboard.

Not a member? Find out more about this and other benefits of Youth Sport Trust Membership, including details of further termly webinars and continuous professional development here.


The Youth Sport Trust membership offer is designed to provide experienced PE teachers and new practitioners with structured support and professional development to ensure that your PESSPA offer is focussed and effective.

Embedding pupil leadership at the start of the year paves the way for success in PE and sport. Pupils leading at play and lunchtimes, supporting in lessons and helping to lead and organise helps to ensure that all pupils are active. This also links into my staff CPD focus and contributes towards our daily Active 60.

Katie Chapman
Katie Chapman
Published on 6 October 2023