It still shocks me to hear teachers undermine the importance of KS1 PE. Admittedly they are becoming the minority, but there are still a number of teachers out there working in FS2 and KS1 who, in their opinion, see PE as a bit of a non entity.
We've all seen it. KS1 PE lessons consisting of 45 minutes of domes and dishes, or maybe with the bean game thrown in for good measure. Or how about the dance lessons - Listen to the music, how does it make you feel? Can you move like a tree? Can you pretend the wind is moving you?
I was recently in a school (which will remain nameless) discussing the KS1 PE curriculum for the following year. The Headteacher's exact words were "I just want something that gets them active every week - If they don't come back in with a sweat on, then they've not done PE". Lets think about that for a second……….and then promise each other never to think like this again.
I was recently at a handball match where one child was significantly better than the other children. He could catch the majority of balls thrown at him. He could throw accurately and with power, both underarm and overarm. He was the exception, whereas he should have been the norm. What stops all the other children being as good as him? I asked him if he'd ever played handball before - No, not before he'd been practicing with school for this tournament. So it wasn't a sport specific skill, he was just very good at his CORE skills. "But how have you got so good at throwing and catching?" I asked. The answer - practice.
So here's the fact of the matter - KS1 PE isn't a non-entity. It's not something that teachers can just muster through without specialist support or guidance. Because, quite simply, it is CRITICAL to the long-term development of children. It is TWO YEARS where we can focus on giving EVERY CHILD those core skills of throwing, catching, rolling and striking.
A good KS1 PE provision sets up children for a FANTASTIC KS2 PE experience and subsequently an AMAZING KS3 PE experience.
Let's look at two scenarios:
Scenario 1: A child has been exposed to a lackluster KS1 PE Curriculum. Lots of parachutes, games, dancing to rainforest sounds. He steps into KS2 and the first sport on the curriculum is cricket. They've never played cricket before, but that's not totally uncommon…but they can't catch. They can't throw overarm. They can't throw underarm whilst running. They can't strike a ball with a bat. They can't stop a moving ball.
Oh no! Back we go. We now have to spend the majority of Year 3, 4 & 5 working on basic individual skills - Throwing, catching, rolling, striking. Then we have to practice these skills in game-like scenarios, where pressure and competition add to the difficulty of success. Finally, somewhere around Year 6 for the majority of learners, we can get them involved in a Cricket Match. Just the four years later than planned!
Scenario 2: A child has been exposed to a challenging KS1 PE Curriculum. The school has set the standards that ALL children will finish KS1 being able to catch a ball (of various sizes) both stationary and whilst moving. Likewise, they can throw with accuracy (underarm and overarm) from both stationary and moving positions. What's more, they can strike stationary, rolling and thrown balls with a number of different types of equipment. They can send a ball to a specific area with control using their feet, hands and equipment. Oh yes, this child has been challenged in KS1. And do you know what? They have loved every minute of it. And let's be clear - We are not accepting success as one catch in a PE lesson. We are talking about being confident that every child can throw, catch, roll, strike in a GAME situation.
But how has such a thorough curriculum been delivered to ensure EVERY child leaves KS1 being able to throw, catch, roll and strike? Well firstly, it is the expectation, which is set from FS2 - And every week, at least one PE lesson focuses on it. Secondly, lessons are fun, focused and utilize different equipment dependent on each child's skill level. Most children, from around the age of two, can catch. It just depends what you are asking them to catch. My daughter (aged two) can throw and catch to herself - with a balloon. The next step is to teach her with a beach ball. Then we'll go to a plastic football. Then we'll go to a beanbag and so on… until eventually, she can throw and catch anything. Simple, really. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Children are AWARE of what the exact expectation is. They know that the goal is for them to be able to master the core skills prior to finishing Year 2. This gives them ownership, pride and the desire to achieve…. something we don't give KS1 children enough credit for.
So here they are on their first day of KS2 PE and the scheme of work is Tennis. No problem. Serving becomes easier because they can toss the ball accurately and with control before making a connection. When practicing in pairs, they can work more thoroughly due to being able to catch the balls hit to them - rather than having to chase tennis balls around the playground. They can move their feet to get in the correct line to hit a forehand - After all, this is the same skill they did in KS1 when they moved to catch a ball.
And now KS2 PE is fun. Why - because they are succeeding. They are achieving their floor targets in PE because they haven't had to be taught the basic fundamentals. And they now love PE! - So much so that they do loads of it outside of school too...The love affair has begun.
These skills can be developed inside the classroom too. How about an Answer Ball? When you ask a question, throw the ball to who you want to answer it. They catch it, answer, and then throw it back. What about a putting-mat for issuing team points? Buy a putting-mat with numerous holes (approx. £15) for each classroom. When you award team points, let the children putt for how many they are going to win, with each hole worth a different amount - This will soon improve their technique and accuracy!
Add all of this to the numerous research papers on the links between good PE and positive classroom results/behavior and you have a pretty good argument for the importance of PE in KS1.
So please, have a look at your KS1 PE long-term plan and ask yourself the question - I am challenging our children enough with this? Will this curriculum give them the core skills needed to go and play any sport put in front of them? Will they be able to progress into games and matches, where they will learn to win, lose, play as a team, communicate, show empathy and sportsmanship with a fantastic level of basic, core skills?
If the answer is yes, you are on a winner. If it's no, now's the time to have a re-think.