Lee Garrett

A teaching and learning journey through PE


Physical Literacy

As a PE teacher and indeed any teacher you are continually thinking about behaviour management, progression of activities, questions for effective feedback, AFL strategies, warm-up, cool down, differentiation. The list goes on. But physical literacy? This is a term that I’m well aware of but never really gave it much thought. Why? Probably because there is so much we have to consider to incorporate within a lesson that specific physical literacy tasks is put to one side and left to develop over time through day to day experiences. Until now!

physical literacy

I recently attended a course on developing physical literacy by CreateDevelopment delivered by @creatorronnie and @cretorjohn. This is not a sales pitch for CreateDevelopment although they did deliver an outstanding course but my thinking and reflection from that day has ignited some thought as to the future of my PE units of work and lessons.

When we talk about physical literacy, we essentially are talking about the basic fundamentals of skill and movement. Some call it multi-abilities or A,B,Cs (agility, balance, coordination) but it is all very much the same. The analogy which really stuck with me is that the sport specific skills / the complete execution of a task is referred to as a sentence of movement. I will use triple jump as an example.

But what about the letters and words that make up these sentences? Without the letters, you get mis-spelled words, incomplete sentences and a paragraph that does not make sense. The letters are the so called physical literacy skills needed to execute the skills. For example in triple jump the words run up, hop, skip,  jump, flight and landing make up the sentence (the complete execution of the triple jump). Within the words are letters. These letters are the fundamental physical literacy skills, balance and coordination, and don’t forget these skills need to be transferred bilaterally. Generally the multi-skills which act as a foundation for movement are by and large overlooked.


– How could physical literacy be embedded? As part of the warm-up/cool down, integrated within the lesson? We have the resources to do this but department planning and sharing good practice is key.

(Next question refers to our school which starts from Foundation Stage 1 to Post-16)

– Could we do INSET training to Primary staff and encourage/guide them to set aside 5-10 every day of physical literacy exercises as part of 5-10min motivator break? There is actually another learning benefit by doing this.

– Physical literacy was largely developed through “play”. With the ever increasing technological society, is it possible to educate parents about the value of physical literacy and the various ways that home support can contribute. We constantly get asked by parents what they can do to support their son/daughter although many rely on school as their only provision of physical activity.

– How can we get staff to support PE and offer physical literacy ECAs?

– Would Secondary students benefit from an intervention of physical literacy? or is it too late by then.

We have already took a big step since September by redesigning the curriculum to focus on developing 6 non performance skills (cognitive, physical, creativity, social, personal, health and fitness) and have already seen higher attainment, an increase in a positive attitude towards PE and visible learning. But if 75% of students are switched off PE by the age of 16, questions have to be asked as to why. Is it because they do not have the physical literacy skills developed enough to participate AND ENJOY sport, peer group pressure and other external factors, inflexible curriculum, or some other complex reason.

Whatever the reasons, PE teachers have to try and eliminate as many factors as possible. For me right now, the development of physical literacy is important especially in the environment I work and live in. Culturally, the students I work with do not have opportunities to develop the basic fundamental skills and this can be observed in the quality of their own body movements and coordination.

Like I said earlier, I always knew about multi-skills and abilities but it was never in my radar until now. I’m pretty sure that just a minimal amount of time spent developing some aspect of  fundamental skills will go a long way. Some would call this a marginal gain.