The Importance of PE in the Primary Curriculum

Written by Dan

Last updated

Physical Education has long been an integral part of the primary school curriculum. It provides children with essential life skills and physical, mental and social benefits that can be felt in the classroom and beyond.

It also has a crucial role in helping them develop relationships with their peers, which is increasingly vital as more classrooms become virtual.

As teachers, we owe it to our students to ensure that PE remains at the heart of their learning journey, not just for its physical health advantages but also its contribution to growing self-confidence and forming strong connections with friends, classmates and teachers alike.

This blog post will examine why PE should remain a fundamental part of the primary school curriculum, from teaching teamwork skills to encouraging exercise habits from an early age.

Related: For more, check out our article on How To Follow Development Matters in PE  here.


Why Is PE So Important In Primary School?

Physical Education, or PE, is integral to any primary school curriculum.

Not only does it provide an opportunity for children to get some exercise, but it also helps them to develop essential motor skills. Furthermore, PE can help improve children’s coordination and balance and teach them the importance of teamwork.

In addition, PE provides a welcome break from the classroom and allows children to let off some energy. With so many benefits, it is clear why PE is such an essential part of primary school.

Related: For more, check out our article on How PE Can Help With Well-Being here.

Aspect of PEBenefits for Primary StudentsCurriculum Goals
Physical Development– Enhances motor skills.– Develop coordination and body awareness.
– Promotes healthy growth and development.– Teach a variety of physical activities.
Health and Fitness– Encourages an active lifestyle.– Educate about the benefits of exercise.
– Reduces the risk of obesity and related diseases.– Instill habits of regular physical activity.
Social Skills– Fosters teamwork and cooperation.– Facilitate group games and sports.
– Teaches conflict resolution and sportsmanship.– Encourage positive social interaction.
Emotional Well-being– Improves self-esteem and confidence.– Provide opportunities for success in various activities.
– Helps manage stress and anxiety through physical activity.– Support a positive PE environment.
Cognitive Development– Enhances concentration and memory.– Incorporate activities that require strategy and planning.
– Promotes better academic performance.– Use PE to reinforce learning concepts.
Lifelong Skills– Introduces skills for a variety of sports and activities.– Encourage enjoyment of physical activity.
– Teaches the importance of perseverance and goal-setting.– Teach rules and techniques of games and sports.

This table provides an overview of the multifaceted benefits of PE in the primary curriculum, including its impact on students’ physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development, as well as the curriculum goals that support these benefits.

What Are The Different Elements Of PE?

Acquiring and developing skills

When children are young, they are like sponges. They are constantly learning and trying new things. As they grow older, they focus more on developing the skills they are interested in.

While some children naturally gravitate towards team sports, others prefer individual activities such as running or swimming.

However, all children need to learn the basics of each sport before specializing in one.

Acquiring and developing skills in various sports allows children to try different things and find the activity that best fits them. It also helps to develop coordination and body awareness, which are essential for all aspects of life.

Ultimately, teaching children to acquire and develop skills in various sports is an integral part of helping them lead active and healthy lives.

Element of PEDescriptionExamples of Activities or Focus Areas
Physical FitnessDeveloping cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility health.Running, calisthenics, stretching exercises.
Motor Skills DevelopmentEnhancing fine and gross motor skills and coordination.Throwing, catching, jumping, dancing.
Cognitive UnderstandingLearning the rules and strategies of games and sports.Discussing tactics, analyzing performances.
Emotional DevelopmentBuilding self-confidence, managing emotions, and resilience.Team activities, individual challenges.
Social InteractionEncouraging teamwork, cooperation, and fair play.Group games, partner activities.
Health KnowledgeUnderstanding the importance of a healthy lifestyle.Nutrition education, benefits of exercise.
Safety AwarenessPromoting safe practices during physical activity.Proper equipment use, safety rules in sports.

This table outlines the core elements that comprise a comprehensive PE program, each contributing to the overall development and well-being of students.

Selecting and applying skills, tactics and compositional ideas

Imagine you’re playing a game of tag with your friends. You see an opportunity to sneak up on your friend who is “It” and tag them before they can react.

To do this, you need to use the skills you’ve learned in PE class, like running quickly and quietly so that you can catch them off guard. This is just one example of how the knowledge and skills learnt in PE can be applied in real-world situations.

By understanding how to select and apply different skills, tactics and compositional ideas, you’ll be better equipped to handle any situation life throws at you – whether it’s a friendly game of tag or something more serious.

boy in red and blue soccer jersey kicking soccer ball on green grass field during daytime

Knowledge and understanding of fitness and health

In today’s society, it is more important than ever for children to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

However, this can be difficult to do when they are bombarded with unhealthy messages from the media and marketing campaigns.

That’s why it’s so important for schools to provide students with comprehensive education about fitness and health.

When students understand how their bodies work and what they need to do to stay healthy, they are more likely to make positive choices about their health.

In addition, by teaching kids about fitness and health at an early age, we can help them develop lifelong habits that will benefit their health in the long run. So let’s ensure we include knowledge and understanding of fitness and health in our PE curriculums!

Evaluating and improving performance

When teaching Physical Education in school, it is essential to teach children the importance of ‘Evaluating and improving performance. By doing this, we are encouraging children to be more active, aware and engaged in their own physical development.

We are also promoting a growth mindset attitude towards learning so that children understand that effort leads to improvement. This vital life skill will benefit children in physical activity and other areas.

When we teach children how to evaluate and improve their performance, we are helping them to set goals, work hard and ultimately achieve success.


Early Learning Goals

In the early years, kids learn best through play. That’s why the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) has a special focus on supporting young children’s learning and development through play-based activities.

The EYFS comprises seven areas of learning and development, with three ‘prime’ areas that are particularly important for kids in the early years: personal, social and emotional development; physical development; and communication and language.

These ‘prime’ areas form the foundation for all future learning, so kids must get a strong start in these areas during their crucial early years.

In addition to the ‘prime’ areas, four other ‘specific’ areas of learning and development in the EYFS build on the foundations laid down in the ‘prime’ areas.

These specific areas are literacy; mathematics; understanding the world, and expressive arts and design. Together, these seven areas provide a broad range of outcomes against which kids can be assessed at the end of their Reception year.

So whether your child is building towers out of blocks, singing nursery rhymes or exploring the great outdoors, they’re developing key skills that will help them thrive in school and beyond.

PE Aims in EYFS

Moving and handling

  • Children have excellent control and coordination in both large and small movements. They are confident moving around in many different ways, always being mindful of their surroundings. They efficiently use tools and equipment, such as writing utensils for pencils.

Health and Self-care

  • Children understand that exercising and eating healthily are crucial for maintaining good health. They also know how to keep themselves safe and manage their own hygiene independently, like dressing and using the restroom.

Self-confidence and self-awareness

  • Children feel comfortable trying out unfamiliar activities and can explain why they enjoy some activities more than others. They aren’t afraid to speak in front of a familiar group, will eagerly share their ideas, and know which resources are necessary for their chosen tasks. If they need help, they ask for it without hesitance.

Managing feelings and behaviour

  • Children openly discuss their emotions and the emotions of those around them. They understand how certain behaviours can lead to specific consequences, both positive and negative. In group settings, children follow rules and adjust their behaviour based on the situation.

Making relationships

Children inclined to play together usually take turns and listen to others’ ideas. They also demonstrate awareness of other people’s feelings and needs, forming positive relationships with adults and peers.

Physical education is integral to any child’s development and should never be underestimated. It allows children to develop various physical and social skills essential for long-term success – both in the classroom and beyond.

As such, ensuring that primary schools offer appropriate PE provisions is critical to helping children to reach their full potential. After all, a healthy and active childhood is the foundation of a healthier, more successful adulthood.

Parents must ensure that their children have access to physical education opportunities and encourage them to get involved in activities like sports clubs or PE classes outside of school.

With the proper support and guidance, kids can learn various physical and social skills to help them flourish.

PE is an essential part of the primary school curriculum, allowing kids to develop their physical and social skills and increase their knowledge about how to look after themselves.

By giving children access to appropriate PE opportunities, parents and teachers can help them to reach their full potential – now and in the future.


Q1: What is Physical Education (PE) in the context of a primary curriculum?

Physical Education, or PE, in the context of a primary curriculum, refers to the subject that focuses on developing children’s physical skills, health, and knowledge about fitness. It involves teaching children about various sports, physical activities, and overall wellness.

Q2: Why is PE considered important in the primary curriculum?

PE plays a vital role in the holistic development of children. It not only promotes physical health and fitness but also fosters social skills, teamwork, discipline, and self-confidence. Moreover, it helps instill a lifelong commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Q3: How often should PE be incorporated into the primary curriculum?

The frequency of PE lessons can vary depending on the school’s policy and curriculum. However, many experts recommend that children engage in at least an hour of physical activity daily.

Q4: What types of activities are typically included in a PE curriculum?

A well-rounded PE curriculum may include a variety of activities such as team sports (like soccer, basketball), individual pursuits (like gymnastics, swimming), dance, outdoor adventure activities, and games that enhance motor skills, coordination, and overall fitness.

Q5: Can PE impact academic performance?

Numerous studies suggest a positive correlation between physical activity and academic performance. Regular physical activity can improve concentration, memory, and cognitive function, all of which can enhance academic performance.

Q6: How can PE contribute to a child’s emotional and social development?

PE provides a platform for children to interact with their peers, learn teamwork, and develop leadership skills. It can also help children manage stress, improve mood, and boost self-esteem.
Remember, PE is more than just a break from academic subjects. It’s an essential part of the primary curriculum that contributes significantly to a child’s physical, emotional, and social well-being.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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