25 Jun 2006

Fours years since its inception, Wales’s unique physical education (PE) programme is maintaining its status as the nation’s leading initiative in raising standards in the delivery of PE lessons in the principality.

Estyn - Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Education and Training - has today released its 2005-2006 report on the impact made by the PE and School Sport Initiative (PESS) which is managed by the Sports Council for Wales and funded by the Welsh Assembly Government.

And it claims that that the PESS scheme is continuing to have a significant impact - not only on standards of teaching and performance - but also on pupils’ behaviour, learning skills and attitudes.

Philip Carling, Chair of the Sports Council for Wales today welcomed the findings:

"The PESS programme is obviously progressing well and I’m delighted with the Estyn report.

"School PE lessons ensure all youngsters, regardless of gender, race or social background, have the opportunity to engage in physical activity in a safe environment. Positive experiences of school sport encourage teamwork, improve self-esteem and confidence and help develop the social skills that children can take with them into adulthood"

"Physical activity is vital to the health of the nation and sport in schools plays a major role. It has an integral part to play in the development of the young as it improves health, general wellbeing and fitness levels."

The report states that "Standards of physical education are improving, through more and better quality day-to-day experiences for pupils in schools." It also states that teachers have benefited from the scheme’s "clear focus on supporting and developing teachers’ skills in teaching physical education, rather than only on providing one-off experiences from specialist providers."

Indeed, many head teachers consider it to be "the most effective of any national initiative ever experienced."

PESS was launched in 2002 with an initial 18 Development Centres – a cluster of at least four partners, including a minimum three schools and post-16 education providers or leisure centres. There are now 63 Development Centres - 12 newly established this year. In addition, every local authority has an appointed PE and School Sport Co-ordinator.

Estyn carried out its analysis of PE classes at 116 primary schools. Thirty-three of them were taking part in the PESS initiative and had links with their local development centres.

The report concluded that:

  • There was increased competence and confidence in primary school teachers in their delivery of PE lessons than at this time last year.
  • There was a marked improvement in standards of the delivery of gymnastics and dance.
  • The Continuing Professional Development courses organised and funded by the PESS initiative continues to attract more teachers from schools that are not themselves members of the development centres.
  • There is more good work in physical education in schools that are part of the development centre initiative than in those that were not.

Estyn have a number of recommendations to make about how the scheme could be improved, including: supporting schools to extend opportunities for school sport beyond the school day; look into establishing accredited continuing development programmes for all teachers; ensure that all schools improve their understanding of health and fitness.