The new Education Inspection Framework was released in May and updated in September. OFSTED will use all the available evidence to evaluate what it is like to be a learner in your school’s provision. They will do that through four key judgements; quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management.
What does that mean for the PE Department? Their judgement of quality of education will be evaluated through the three ‘I’s of intent, implementation and impact. I welcome this, as it has clearly begun to revitalise thinking about the PE curriculum and its role within physically educating children. However this is not something we should be doing for OFSTED, it is an ongoing and fundamental part of our job as PE teachers. Whilst your school may want to use the language of OFSTED with three i’s I see it slightly differently:
Be clear about purpose.
This is the WHY of PE. It needs to be clear, coherent, educative and understood by the whole school community. PE is the Swiss Knife of curriculum subjects, as it can be used for multiple ends. When we try to achieve everything, we ultimately fail at everything as we do not have any real purpose. Spending time, articulating clearly why your department and your subject exists is not a luxury, it is essential. It allows you to uncover the hidden assumptions about what PE is for. If you then start to share that educative purpose with the wider community you can look to bring the department, pupils, other teachers, leadership and parents more into alignment with what you are trying to achieve. Success is more likely if everyone understands what success is.
Be clear about the knowledge, skills and behaviours you want to teach.
This the WHAT of PE. My experience is that PE teachers in England tend to think in terms of sports. If our purpose is about exposing children to as many different sports as possible in the hope they might find one they like and pursue outside of school then that makes sense. However I’m not sure where the educative outcome is of this purpose and therefore PE’s place as curriculum subject. It would be better to think in terms of domains of learning and the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for your pupils to become physically educated. A problem is that for PE Teachers this is where we often start, losing ourselves in the details of the WHAT and forgetting about our WHY. Purpose should shape the content of the PE curriculum, not the other way around.
Be clear about your teaching methods.
This is the HOW of PE. There is no silver bullet teaching method in PE, especially if we are looking improvement across multiple domains of learning. Here we must be be aware of the three way relationship linking teacher, pupil and knowledge, skills and habits to be taught and learned. If we really are focused on educative aims and outcomes in PE we must take time to consider the knowledge involved in the task, the context in which the task is taking place and the teaching strategy being used. All the time asking the question is whether does this align to the purpose we have proposed. This requires PE Teachers to have a range of teaching methods and to use professional judgement and decision making in an attempt to choose and apply the most effective one to the learning intention.
Be clear about how you will chart progress.
With a clear purpose and therefore clear knowledge, skill and behavioural learning intentions within the curriculum you can begin to design a way of charting progress. This will not be done with one single unifying method of assessment like levels. A single assessment measure will not be able to reveal what needs to be known in supporting children’s physical education. Although schools will have an expectation for you to fit into their own assessment framework, try to use multiple sources of evidence and assessment methods during lessons. Assessments that can chart progress should be ongoing and embedded across lessons (not just in a one off assessment lesson at the end of a unit of work) as their primary purpose is to help teachers be responsive to their pupils needs. Our greatest concern must be always be progression in PE towards our purpose, rather than trying to demonstrate that progress to others.
This is an ongoing process.
Coherence will be established with a clear purpose, knowledge, skills and behaviours that allow you to achieve that purpose, the alignment of a range of teaching methods that allow the knowledge, skills and behaviours to be learned and a method of charting progress that allows your teachers to be responsive to the needs of your pupils the job of work is not over. However, coherence is an ongoing and iterative process and at the heart go high quality physical education provision. You need to build in time within your department to reflect and refine by revisiting your purpose as this is what everything in your curriculum hangs off.
Whether OFSTED or not come to speak to you about the quality of education in PE, every PE Teacher should be able to clearly articulate the purpose, learning intentions, teaching styles and assessment methods used within your department and the reasons behind their choice. This leads to a curriculum coherence throughout the department, within lessons and across the pupils time studying physical education, which will only benefit all those involved and perhaps make our subject more relevant and meaningful.