After scrapping SSPs, ministers are urged to find new strategy

Written by: HTU | Published:

Coverage of Ofsted’s recent report into PE provision focused on the call for more ‘physical’ lessons. Less widely reported were inspectors’ comments on the legacy of the scrapped School Sport Partnerships. Pete Henshaw explains

The Department for Education (DfE) needs a new national strategy for PE and school sport based on the success of School Sport Partnerships (SSPs), Ofsted has said.

A report by inspectors into PE provision found that there is more good and outstanding PE in schools now compared with when Ofsted last reported in 2008.Inspectors visited 120 primary and 110 secondary schools and found PE to be good or outstanding in 67 per cent of the 120 primaries. Teaching and learning was also good or outstanding in more than two-thirds.

The study, entitled Beyond 2012: Outstanding PE for all, found that the impact of SSPs in maximising participation and increasing competition was “clearly evident in the vast majority of schools visited”.

SSPs allowed local networks of schools and teachers extra time and resources to organise inter-school competitions and offer more activities for pupils. The coalition’s decision to cut the programme’s £162 million funding in 2011 sparked an outcry from teachers, sporting stars and other organisations.

The report states: “In the large majority of (primary) schools, teachers had benefited from regular opportunities for professional development provided locally by SSPs, and this had led to considerable improvements in the quality of teaching in the majority of schools.

“Engaging fully in SSPs had led to the development of a good or outstanding curriculum in the large majority of schools visited.”

The report calls on the DfE to devise “a new national strategy for PE and school sport that builds on the successes of SSPs and enables schools to make a major contribution to the sporting legacy left by the 2012 Olympic Games”.

A DfE spokeswoman told Headteacher Update: “We are working across government to consider a range of measures to improve PE and school sport as part of the Olympic and Paralympic legacy and will make an announcement in due course.”

Elsewhere, Ofsted praised the similar levels of progress made by all pupils including those with SEN or disabilities in the primaries visited. Not one school was found with inadequate teaching, and where it “required improvement”, the main weaknesses included limited use of assessment leading to “superficial planning and insufficient challenge”.

The report warned that in half of the primary schools, the “absence of detailed assessment procedures” in both key stages 1 and 2 was a “key weakness”. It states: “Only a minority of teachers showed a secure understanding of how to measure pupils’ progress accurately in PE.”

As was widely reported in the national media, Ofsted said that in some schools there needs to be a bigger focus on the physical aspect of the subject. The report adds: “In weaker lessons, pupils were not challenged to warm up vigorously or build stamina and strength by participating in sustained periods of physical activity. They were often prevented from exercising for extended periods because teachers interrupted their learning or took too long to introduce new tasks. “

Inspectors also found that very few schools had adapted PE programmes to target the needs of overweight or obese pupils. The report calls on primary schools to ensure all pupils can swim 25 metres by the end of year 6, after inspectors found a fifth of schools were missing this target.

Despite these issues, chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said that PE in schools was “in good health”. However, he warned: “In many of the schools, the more able pupils were not challenged sufficiently because teachers’ expectations were too low.

Schools with the best PE provision enabled pupils to achieve well by providing an ever-increasing range of extra-curricular and traditional activities.” The DfE spokeswoman added: “The draft PE curriculum published last week is designed to put competitive sport back at the heart of school life and end the damaging ‘prizes for all’ culture. We are also extending the School Games and spending £1 billion on youth sport over the next five years.”

Further advice

Ofsted’s report, Beyond 2012: Outstanding PE for all, highlights a range of examples of outstanding primary teaching and provision, including the following:
• Effective questioning of pupils during practice accompanied by high-quality, subject-specific feedback on how to acquire skills and improve their performance.
• Teachers planned together to avoid duplication of activities across key stages and to ensure lessons contained suitably challenging tasks for pupils of different ages and abilities.
• Pupils had regular opportunities to be creative, make decisions for themselves and practise skills independently, in pairs and groups.
• In lessons, teachers routinely checked pupils’ learning by asking them to briefly explain what they were doing and identify what else they could do to improve.
• Pupils were expected to attend lunchtime and after-school clubs, often led by specialist sports coaches to practise and reinforce what they had learnt in lessons.
• Warm-ups were made enjoyable but also included high intensity, short duration exercise that tested speed, stamina, strength and flexibility.
• When skills had been learnt in unopposed practices and drills, pupils were challenged further by repeating them at pace and applying them in highly competitive play against opponents.
• Time was not wasted observing others performing and filling in assessment forms, rather than practising to improve performance.

You can download the report, which contains a number of case studies, at

• For more primary education news from Headteacher Update, click here.

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