Mapping out the mountain.

2013 saw the arrival of a new National Curriculum for primary schools in England.

Maths appeared in a 47-page document, full of 224 statutory requirements for teaching. An average of 37 per year group. Science was 34 pages with 114 statutory requirements.

What about PE? A subject that had recently been awarded £150million per year from the government. 2 pages and no statutory requirements. Exactly the same as music.

And there lies the first part of the problem – An opportunity arises for schools to map their own curriculum. To rip up the rulebook and start again, focusing on a few areas that were down to their interpretation. I presume we all know the difference between “developing simple tactics for attacking and defending” in KS1 and then building on these skills to “apply basic principles suitable for attacking and defending” in KS2?

Who are the first people to seize this opportunity? Coaching companies. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have ran a coaching company for a number of years and know, first hand, the benefits they have when working with schools to improve the quality of teaching and learning. But how many coaching companies appeared after the announcement of the £150million funding? How many coaches decided that they enjoyed coaching football on the local park on a Saturday morning and that teaching primary PE would be the next logical step?

How many coaches and coaching companies actually understand PE? How many offered the right leadership and advice at this critical time of change to say to schools “this is what your curriculum mapping for PE needs to look like”.

Every day we are contacted by at least one school that ask us to review their curriculum map. “We’re just not sure it’s right”, “we’re not sure what our children are actually getting from it” and “they’re just not being challenged” are three comments we have received this week!

Hence our decision to write this blog. If any of the above resonates with your school then please feel free to use some of the tips below. If not, and you were lucky enough to get it right, then feel free to stop reading now!

1) Multi Skills approach works best in KS1.

KS1 PE is fundamental to the success of any curriculum. Set clear goals for EVERY child in KS1 – As a basic requirement they should be able to throw, catch, strike, field, send, receive, balance, jump, run, hop and skip by the end of year 2. They should understand what attacking and defending is and be able to participate in small-sided games that give them the opportunity to do this. Make sure Dance and Gymnastics are engaging and fun, or risk putting them off these important components for life!

2) Sport Specific learning works best in KS2.

Choose six core sports (minimum) and teach them EVERY year, ideally at the same time each year. Make sure your learning journeys are focused on what you want the output to be for each of these sports at the end of Y6. For example, I want all my students to be able to fully participate in a hockey match by the end of Y6 – OK, so they need to be able to do the following:

Y5 – Understand attacking and defending principles, understand how to umpire.
Y4 – Win the ball from an opponent, intercept the ball. Transition from defence to attack.
Y3 – Move with the ball, pass the ball, receive the ball, shoot the ball.

Each step is a fundamental component in the learning journey. You cannot beat a defender in Y4 if you can’t dribble or pass in Y3.

3) Netball/Basketball and Tennis/Badminton are not the same sports.

If we had a pound for every school that said “we do Netball in Y3 and Y5, then Basketball in Y4 and Y6”.


Basketball and Netball both involve a ball and a hoop to score in, that’s about where the similarities end. Look at the example above and try and play that through your mind with Netball and Basketball alternating the years they are taught – Moving with the ball doesn’t exist in Netball, so beating a defender or winning the ball will be very different in both sports in Y4. Attacking principles in Netball and Basketball are very different – Penetration in Basketball refers to the ball carrier attacking space at pace. How is this done in Netball?

4) Throwing and Catching is everything – Provide every opportunity you can for pupils to do it.

Buy 2 or 3 crazy catches ( - no we’re not on commission, they are just brilliant), place them on your playground at lunchtime and watch peoples throwing and catching improve.

Output and learning is far greater when the core skills are mastered. Think of PE like a mastery of maths approach – we want children to be able to do the skills in a range of situations and contexts. Only then will we truly see how well they have learnt the skills.

Intervention doesn’t need to just happen in lesson time.

5) Bring variety into your extra-curricular provision.

The biggest fear about teaching core sports is the variety of the curriculum. Making sure your extra-curricular provision is wide and varied easily solves this. Look at including fencing, archery and golf as extra-curricular sports whilst focusing your PE learning on the core sports.

In summary, the PE curriculum allows schools to be creative about their approach to the curriculum. With this comes opportunity and like any opportunity, there will always be people looking to benefit from it. Make sure that:
A) Your experts that are supporting you and your school really are experts.
B) Your curriculum is logical and sequential.
C) Your outputs for KS1 and KS2 (and ideally for EYFS as well) are clearly documented and that each year group along the way knows it’s specific requirements.

If you need any help or assistance, or would like us to review your current curriculum map, please email


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