Sports stars say teacher confidence key to getting primary PE right

Over the next few weeks, every primary school in England will receive the first instalment of a £320 million government grant, now in its seventh year, which significantly extends the resourcing for Physical Education and Sport.

The continuation of the Primary PE and Sport Premium, launched in March 2013, was confirmed in July by the Government.

It followed a united call by the sport sector and leading sports stars, co-ordinated by the Youth Sport Trust, to ensure the next generation continue to access the huge wellbeing and educational benefits that come from play, sport and daily physical activity.  

As the ringfenced funds land with schools, sports stars, including Paralympian Hannah Cockroft, speak out about how teacher training and confidence is vital to ensuring every child has a positive and fulfilling experience of PE and sport in their primary years. 

Hannah Cockroft MBE, World Champion, Paralympic athlete and Ambassador for the Youth Sport Trust, said: 

At school, PE for me was either sitting in the library doing homework, doing physiotherapy in a separate room or sitting on the side watching my friends have fun. This was a consistent situation throughout primary school and until my second year of secondary school. I was the only disabled pupil at both my mainstream schools and the teachers just didn’t have the training or, most importantly, the equipment for me to safely be able to get involved.  

If my school had access to the Primary PE and Sport Premium, I think the funding would have helped the school have specialist equipment to have allowed me to get involved, or more importantly provided further education for teachers on how to adapt lessons to include me. That would have made all the difference. It would also have taken a lot of pressure off my parents who worked hard to keep me fit and active outside of school, because my chances at school were so limited. It wasn’t until I was 12-years-old that I found out about Para sport and the opportunities available for me.

Jenny Meadows, GB athlete, World and European Medallist, Totally Runable director and part of a team of National School Sport Champions, said: 

I have always enjoyed sport and being active. However, even though I excelled at it, I spent most of my time at school trying not to stand out as a good sports performer as I was affected by gender stereotypical messages that girls aren’t supposed to be good at it. Through my various ambassador roles, I’ve spent a lot of time in primary schools, and it’s staggering how this message hasn’t changed over time.  

I’m a strong advocate for the place that schools have in creating social change through positive early-years’ experience and I’m delighted that the PE and Sport Premium funding has been used by some schools to address these issues and make needed change. I have seen some amazing examples of how primary schools have been curious enough to think about what is going on with participation and confidence levels between girls and boys in sport and physical activity and look deeper.

There are five key indicators that the government has outlined the Primary PE and Sport Premium money should be spent on. These include: 

1. The engagement of all pupils in regular physical activity - the Chief Medical Officer guidelines recommend that all children and young people aged 5 to 18 engage in approximately 60 minutes of physical activity a day, of which 30 minutes should be in school 

2. The profile of PE and sport is raised across the school as a tool for whole-school improvement 

3. Increased confidence, knowledge and skills of all staff in teaching PE and sport 

4. Broader experience of a range of sports and activities offered to all pupils 

5. Increased participation in competitive sport 

Children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust echoes sports stars in stressing the importance of investment into things which will not only benefit children in school today, but which will secure sustainable improvements in the long term. 

The charity highlights investment into teacher training and professional development as a first call on this additional resource transforming Physical Education into a modern and vibrant subject which benefits all children, and which is central to the wider educational outcomes of the schools. The Youth Sport Trust has highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on children’s physical and mental health as well as their social skills and belonging and believes the Primary PE and Sport Premium has the potential to literally ‘change the game’ for hundreds of thousands of children.  

The charity wants to shine a light on how primary schools across the country are responding to the challenges created by the pandemic and help schools share best practice. 

Ali Oliver MBE, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: 

Now more than ever, it is so important that schools are supported to invest this funding in tackling the immediate challenges created by the pandemic as well as more strategic investment. This will secure sustainable improvements and long-term transformation of PE and its relevance to the wider education and development of children.  

Very few people realise that many primary class teachers only receive an average of six hours of Physical Education tuition.  At a time when children’s wellbeing and lifestyles are changing so much, now is the moment to invest in a new future for PE, sport and physical activity in our schools. 

Schools across the country have done a fantastic job of responding to this crisis to ensure that children continue to receive a high-quality programme of PE and school sport and it is vitally important that their learnings are shared, and knowledge tapped so that all schools in receipt of this funding can benefit.

Manor Fields Primary School in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, has invested almost half (42%) of its Primary PE and Sport Premium funding allocation into achieving key indicator 3 to increase confidence, knowledge and skills of all staff in teaching PE and sport. The action the school has taken to date, has already seen 66% of its staff say they feel more confident at teaching all areas of Physical Education and 95% of its pupils saying that PE is ‘always fun’. The school has achieved this by using some of the money to train its PE Leader, Helen Sears, as a PE Primary Specialist (Level 6). This has empowered her to deliver in-house training for other members of staff to confidently teach PE, ensuring the money is spent sustainably and will benefit thousands of children that will attend the school in future. Through the wider training, ongoing observations and staff surveys, Manor Fields will monitor the development of its staff to measure impact and their confidence. The school said it will also work with other schools to share its learnings and best practice. 

Broad Square Primary School in Norris Green, Liverpool, has invested its Primary PE and Sport Premium money into staff training and resources to support the delivery of meaningful, high-quality PE now and for future pupils. Broad Square’s PE lead, PE specialist and PE apprentice were trained by the Youth Sport Trust on the My Personal Best programme. The training and resources take a life skilled approach to teaching PE and positioning it strongly to support the wider recovery curriculum and personal needs of pupils. PE teaching and learning at Broad Square, now focuses on the social, cognitive, emotional and physical domains of learning, connects strongly to the school’s values and the My Personal Best approach is adopted by all staff within the whole school curriculum and wider school life. 

The Youth Sport Trust is making further examples of how schools are spending the funding available on its website alongside a host of free resources and blogs. Visit  

Published on 23 October 2020