Third of teachers lack confidence to teach PE

The University of Bedfordshire collaborates with Virgin Active on designing effective physical education programme for teachers

The programme pulls together innovative teaching approaches and insights gained from the University’s prior involvement in leading various forms of teacher professional development.

The initiative, a year- long teacher development programme aims to inspire confidence in primary school teachers when it comes to teaching PE and instigate a lifelong love of physical activity in primary age students.

The programme starts with a two-day summer camp for teachers with frequent online support and termly face to face meetings. This model of professional development overcomes many of the issues associated with ‘one-off’ and ‘standalone’ courses that often have little impact on teacher confidence and practice back in their own schools.

The team has created a models-based approach to promote physical literacy, with the first sessions centred on how to use a cooperative learning pedagogical model.

This model will help primary students to make progress in the physical, social, cognitive and affective learning domains so that they develop the motivation, confidence, competence and understanding to lead a physically active life.

Helen Ives, Senior Lecturer and Course Coordinator Sport and Physical Education at the University said: “This has been a great initiative to be involved in with Virgin Active. The University is a leading trainer of physical education teachers in the country and it has been a privilege to put our academic expertise into practice.

“We have been able to put together a programme that not only ensures teachers will have the tools necessary to teach PE but hopefully will also help primary age students develop a love of physical activity which will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Current research shows one in three children across the UK are leaving primary school with negative feelings about being physically active. Two in five teachers say their students don’t enjoy PE lessons and believe 40% of children leave primary schools without the foundation movement skills to engage in physical activity.

Primary school teachers play a crucial role in helping children develop physical literacy. However, a third of teachers (32%) said they lack confidence when it comes to teaching PE.

Over a quarter of primary school teachers (28%) said they don’t feel adequately qualified to teach the subject and over half (53%) want more professional development opportunities for PE. The majority (88%) of teachers say they recognise PE is important, and as important as the other subjects they teach. 

Matt Merrick, European Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Active, said: “The vast majority of children are not currently taking the recommended level of physical activity each week. We are committed to changing this. Primary school teachers have the unique challenge of having to be experts across all the subjects they teach and PE is an area where many lack confidence.

“By working with primary school teachers directly to bring something different to PE lessons, we hope to help them inspire their students to fall in love with being active.”

The experienced team of teacher educators and researchers from the University of Bedfordshire includes Dr Helen Ives, Dr Victoria Goodyear, Dr Toni O’Donovan, Mr Mark Bowler and Mr Paul Sammon.


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