The Government announced in the summer this year that from 2017/18 they would be doubling the amount of funding every primary school received for PE Premium. This was fantastic news for all of us passionate about physical development, physical education and school sport. However, £300m of funding being allocated to school PE and sport through the Premium must make an impact now and into the future – what will be its legacy?

Without fail, gymnastics and dance have always come out as areas of activity which teachers feel very apprehensive about teaching, lacking confidence and competence to teach these activities. There are many urban myths out there about how high pupils can go on apparatus, you can’t teach gymnastics unless you have a coaching award etc. In this article I want to look at how you might revitalise the teaching of gymnastics in a primary school and ask you to consider how you will decide upon an investment (what will you buy?), how you will embed this (return on your investment – impact) and finally how will you ensure that this development is high quality and will last for many years. Sportsafe UK are taking a lead in helping schools to do just this through their PE Adviser network and access to high-quality advice and training.

Wall bars are perhaps the biggest single expenditure a primary school might make for PE, especially when combined with appropriate linking apparatus and matting to ensure gymnastics is taught well, pupils are active and learning is optimised. Children need a challenge and a range of apparatus and opportunities to develop their physical literacy and competence. Large apparatus such as wall bars provide a ‘frame’ to facilitate climbing, hanging, sliding, swinging, pulling, balancing, travelling, rotating and much more. They build upon the challenge of performing on the floor and allow pupils to progress and become more confident and competent. It allows for work on core stability, muscular strength and endurance, balance and all-round coordination, gross-motor skills.

If you are considering updating your wall-bars or purchasing some, I would urge you to look at the new and exciting range Just for Kids from Janssen Fritsen, which Sportsafe UK distribute. This range offers far more flexibility and can be easily assembled, moved and connected with other apparatus such as Combiframes, Clambering Courses etc. to provide additional safe use. This means that the apparatus can be used in more areas of the curriculum and over more of the school year making it far more cost effective and providing a greater return on your investment. It also offers a more modern approach and can be seen as embracing such recent introductions as Parkour. With a range of useful approaches to storage it is ideally placed for the primary school and well used across Europe.

The Just for Kids range is also supported with an app to help teachers make the most of the apparatus and when combined with training for your teachers and staff you are more assured that the investment will be used and embedded within the curriculum. Purchasing equipment without adequately supporting the teachers can be a costly mistake as it doesn’t address the issue of teacher confidence, lack of PE training and concerns over safety. I have seen many schools with the very best, most expensive wall-bars but where these are never used! Embed, embed, embed!

A good training course from an experienced adviser will help ensure that your investment in any gymnastics equipment is embedded more within the whole school PE curriculum. It will not only address how to use the wall bars but also how to set up the apparatus to maximise engagement and activity whilst minimising low level disruptive behaviour. It will establish routines to help class management which optimise learning. It should follow the suggested P.I.E. model from the Association of Physical Education (afPE) in terms of health and safety – Preventing, Informing and Educating. It should focus on the pupils learning and how to enable, enhance, enrich and extend their learning, addressing progression and knowledge and understanding as well as physical skills.

Good CPD / INSET or training should also look at the wider lesson for learning, taking an Active Teaching for Learning (ATfL) approach. For example, Sportsafe manufacture a range of low cost balance equipment, throw down markers, hands and feet, lines and crawling tunnels. I recommend using this kind of equipment to put in ‘filler’ activities or ‘Returns’ so that once a pupil has travelled over a set apparatus piece they can use these ‘Returns’ to travel to another piece of apparatus or to a point using purposeful activity and ensuring you reduce queues. Queueing is the single greatest cause of low level disruption and lack of activity in a lesson. Have you got such things and could you see how you might embed them into your teaching and learning in gymnastics?

Sustaining high quality PE needs you to consider staff training and levels of confidence and competence, monitoring standards of pupil progress and achievement and ensuring equipment is well treated, maintained and used. Everything should be inspected annually by a reputable maintenance company with the qualifications, skills and experience to check safety and advise on any maintenance. You should ensure any new teachers are inducted into using the equipment safely and how they should optimise the learning (ATfL). The best way to ensure that the learning is embedded and sustained is that the training provider comes back to help monitor and build upon the original training – collaborative and sustained. Although this increases your costs the return on investment is much better, meaning ultimately that the pupils get a better set of outcomes!

If you adopt this type of approach, consider why you need to spend PE Premium on equipment, how you will embed it to ensure maximal use and optimal learning you will by doing this largely address the sustaining part of the title of this article. Reporting how the school spent the PE Premium via the website grant can also show how you have used the PE Premium to bring about change, make an impact and to sustain it. Collect evidence of pupil progress, enjoyment, engagement and participation in gym clubs etc. too as additional evidence of good practice.

Martin Radmore, PE Consultant at VisionED and former Senior County PE Adviser



Further help and guidance is available along with training and support through Sportsafe UK and Martin Radmore