Assessment of pupils within PE has always been a highly debated subject. There are many diverse views from teachers, Headteachers, government and Ofsted. There are often more questions than answers; How? When? How often? When it comes to assessment in PE what should we be commenting on and feeding back to pupils?

The National Curriculum – assessment

The new 2014 PE curriculum for England states that “By the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study” and Ofsted are primarily looking for pupil achievement in PE; ‘achievement’ meaning a combination of attainment and progress. As there are not specific attainment targets in PE, any assessment needs to take into consideration what pupils can ‘do’ but also record the progress they made over a specific time period or programme of study.

Recording progress

It is not useful when recording achievement to simply tick a box which says ‘Pupil A can perform a log roll showing body tension’ without some comment on when this was achieved. Pupil A may have been able to perform a log roll before they started the unit of work. Therefore this attainment statement does not reflect any progress…and progress is the key to achievement. There is no magic bullet for assessment in physical education, but it shouldn’t be overly complicated or time-consuming. Assessing pupils at 3 points throughout the year is realistic and also provides enough opportunity for pupils to spend time exploring an activity area and being able to make meaningful progress.

The TES has many useful assessment resources and includes members’ comments on their experiences and links to further reading. Below are some ideas you may wish to include in any assessment you devise fit with the new curriculum:

  1.  Keep it simple – many skills and processes overlap activity areas, don’t reinvent the wheel for every sport and activity area
  2. Make it visual, so it is quick and easy to see how pupils are performing
  3. Focus on progress made rather than attainment statements
  4. Link to assessment for learning – the old ‘core tasks’ were great for this. Assessment for learning will help you establish a ‘starting point’ for each new programme of study and allow you to reassess throughout or at the end of the unit.
  5. Don’t over assess, choose three realistic times throughout the year that you can stop and make some meaningful observations of your pupils
  6. Celebrate progress, attainment and effort equally because all are required to make physically literate children

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Many PE and after-school clubs are fun and help keep children active. Ofsted recently highlighted some areas for development in PE including keeping pupils active for longer and teaching specific skills to help increase their ability to access activities. From our experience in schools, many teachers have told us that they worry about how to teach skills in PE is something they have difficulty with.

Teach skills in PE

How we teach skills in PE does not have to be complicated. There are many ways to deliver a new skill to a pupil but knowing the main teaching points first really helps. Of course, there are many points you can provide to improve a skill, but children can usually on listen to and remember three at a time. For example, throwing an underarm ball:

1. Stand one foot in front of the other
2. Swing with the opposite hand to front foot
3. Release ball in the direction of target

There are many other points you could add but to get pupils started delivering only three so they can self regulate and check, and as the teacher, you can mover round and correct and offer advice on these points.

Along with the teaching points are the methods of delivery such as:

Teaching methods

Brian Mac has written a useful article giving a short account of the teaching methods above. Different methods apply to the different skills you may be teaching depending on how complex they are or the risk factors involved.

The most important thing when teaching skills to pupils are for them to comprehend how and why learning the skill is useful and when they might use it. Context is always needed for young learners, especially in new sports or activities.