Levelling the Playing Field: The Ofsted Physical Education Subject Report

Physical Education (PE) holds a pivotal role in shaping the health and wellbeing of our youth. It goes beyond just dribbling a ball or sprinting on the track; it fosters a lifelong love for physical activity, cultivates teamwork and instils discipline.

The recent Ofsted subject report on the quality of physical education has generated quite a buzz, shedding light on the state of PE in schools across the UK and raising critical questions about its effectiveness and accessibility. As a school leader or PE co-ordinator, you'll want to have a good understanding of the findings from this report, so what do you need to know?


The key PE vocabulary in the subject report

You’re likely to have already come across some of the key vocabulary used, but as a reminder, there are three forms of knowledge that will support you in structuring your PE curriculum:​

  • Motor competence – knowledge of the range of movements that become increasingly specific to sport and physical activity.​
  • Rules, strategies and tactics – knowledge of the conventions of participation in different sports and physical activities.​
  • Healthy participation – knowledge of safe and effective participation.

It's worth PE subject leaders and leaders with responsibility for the curriculum to consider how these are woven through planning, teaching and assessment.


What are the key finding from Ofsted's PE subject report?

  • Some PE curriculums lack coherence because they prioritise specific physical activities and sports over a systematic approach that incrementally teaches the knowledge needed to align with national curriculum end points.​
  • Dance, outdoor and adventurous activity opportunities are limited due to a lack of staff competence and confidence. ​
  • Swimming attainment is mixed and access to facilities affects this element of the curriculum.​
  • Outcomes for pupils with SEND vary due to the quality of support available. A small number of pupils routinely miss PE lessons so that they can receive support in other areas of the curriculum.​
  • Assessment is not always aligned with what is in the curriculum and this can be detrimental to pupils’ progress.

Do any of these statements feel familiar? Sometimes, doing some quality assurance on your current curriculum offer to spot areas for improvement can be a really beneficial process, particularly when key findings like these appear from nationwide research. If you're considering this, conducting an internal deep dive can be extremely useful, and our PE Deep Dive and Subject Knowledge Audit Bundle supports that process from start to finish.

 PE Deep Dive and Subject Knowledge Bundle by Honeyguide School Leader Support

What do Ofsted recommend to make improvements in PE?

  • Make sure your curriculum matches the breadth and ambition of the national curriculum for all pupils.​
  • Clearly define the important knowledge that all pupils need to be taught to support planning and assessment.​
  • Choose the most appropriate physical activities and sports, so that pupils achieve the intended end points of the curriculum. ​
  • Ensure time in PE lessons is spent on developing competence.​
  • Train staff to effectively support pupils with SEND so that they can access an ambitious curriculum and achieve well.​
  • Ensure staff regularly check pupils’ understanding and respond to any gaps in knowledge and misconceptions that they identify.​
  • Check all pupils have the knowledge they need in order to participate well in competitions or tasks in lessons that require them to synthesise a range of knowledge. ​
  • Use assessment information to inform subsequent teaching in the short, medium and long term.​
  • Ensure leadership monitoring and evaluation activities focus on the quality of what pupils know and can do.

How can Honeyguide help you to develop your PE offer?

While we can’t plan your curriculum for you, we have created several supportive guidance packs to help you on your curriculum journey.

Initial Information Exploration - New to leading a subject in a school or setting and unsure where to start when monitoring? This pack walks you through how to rapidly gather information about your subject so you can plan to make relevant changes and improvements.


Monitoring Teacher Subject Knowledge - Designed to be time-efficient and work around your classroom commitments, this pack supports busy subject leaders who want to quickly assess, enhance or improve teacher subject knowledge in their setting.

Evaluating Impact and Planning Ahead - Explore subject self-evaluation and the crucial next steps, including cyclical improvement, action planning and how to develop staff in your setting.


PE Deep Dive and Subject Knowledge Bundle - As mentioned above, this bundle, which is tailor-made for PE subject leaders, helps you to consider intent, implementation and impact questions across the breadth of Physical Education, allowing you to consider areas of strength and weakness so you can plan for improvement and (if you feel you need to) prepare for Ofsted.

 PE Deep Dive and Subject Knowledge Bundle by Honeyguide School Leader Support

We hope these help you to reach your goals. (Terrible joke, couldn't resist!)

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