Student voice key to broadening appeal of PE – Sport England

Sport England has been studying the impact of its £13.5m secondary teacher training programme on more than 2,500 schools across the country

Sport England has published a new programme outlining how schools can make physical education, school sport and physical activity (PESSPA) a more inclusive experience for secondary-age students.

The public body joined with Sheffield Hallam University, the Youth Sport Trust, the Activity Alliance and the Association for Physical Education to conduct research based on its secondary teacher training (STT) programme.

Running from 2018 until earlier this year, and backed by £13.5 million of lottery funding, the programme impacted teaching at more than 2,500 schools across England.

Among the key findings from the study of STT was that giving young people the chance to shape their PE lessons – particularly those pupils less inclined to exercise – created a happier environment.

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The pupil-focused research concluded that inclusivity, increased participation and listened-to student voices all contributed towards a wider enthusiasm for participating in PESSPA.

It also found that getting to know and understand students’ motivations and barriers could help encourage enjoyment and engagement, and that the least active students don’t always recognise opportunities to be active at school as readily as their more sporty peers.

To showcase the findings, Sport England created five infographics detailing key outputs from the STT programme, including tips for teachers on how to answer questions about why PE matters, why it makes for a happy school, and how to make physical activity more inclusive.

The public body has also produced a series of 10 short films to highlight case studies of teachers and students positively impacted by the initiative, focusing on themes such as why an inclusive approach is key to increasing participation, why a changing approach to PE makes students think differently, and easy ways to incorporate student voices.

The importance of the issue is borne out by further research cited by Sport England, which found that:

  • More active students report an average happiness score of seven out of 10 (compared to five out of 10 for less active peers)
  • More than two-thirds of students (69%) agreed that being active helps them build resilience
  • Almost two-thirds (62%) agreed that it helps them make healthier life choices
  • More than half (59%) said that PESSPA improves their mental wellbeing
  • Nearly three-quarters (71%) said that it improves their mood
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