Penny Cottee offers some top tips on self-evaluation and the teaching of school sport

Like every PE teacher, you want to deliver the best PE and school sport (PESS) for your pupils, encouraging each child to achieve and enjoy. One of the key skills of today’s teachers is being able to self-evaluate your provision, ensuring that you have a clear vision of what great PESS is and how to improve and adapt continually to achieve it.

The guide Do you have High Quality PE and Sport in your School?, produced by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), outlines the importance of self-evaluating your offering to youngsters and how to go about it.

Here we give a taster of self-evaluation based on the guide to get you started.

Pupil outcomes

To deliver and develop the best PE and school sport for your pupils, you need to know what this looks like in practice. In the excellent booklet – High Quality PE and Sport for Young People – 10 pupil outcomes are listed, which we’ve summarised here. Keep these in mind at all times as your benchmark for success.

When pupils experience high-quality PE and school sport, they:

  • are committed to PE and sport and make them a central part of their lives
  • understand what they are trying to achieve and how to do it
  • understand that PE and sport are important for a healthy, active lifestyle
  • have the confidence to get involved in PE and sport
  • have the skills and control they need to take part in PE and sport
  • willingly participate in individual and team competitive, creative and challenge-type activities
  • think about what they are doing and make appropriate decisions
  • show a desire to improve and achieve in relation to their own abilities
  • have the stamina, suppleness and strength to keep going
  • enjoy PE, school and community sport.

There are five stages to self-evaluation, which we will look at in turn:

  1. Making sure everyone understands what high-quality PESS looks like.
  2. Evaluating how well your pupils match up to the outcomes.
  3. Identifying priorities for improving the quality of PESS.
  4. Taking action to bring about improvement.
  5. Checking whether you are making a difference.

Stage 1: Making sure everyone understands what high-quality PESS looks like
It is vital that you and everyone in your team – as well as your pupils – understand what you are aiming to achieve. Share the pupil outcomes with all those involved in PE and school sport and make them a focus for discussion.  Why not involve non-PE staff too and senior management?

You could split the pupil outcomes into three categories based on those relating to the curriculum, to attitude and to health and fitness.  These may help everyone to gain a clear picture of what high-quality PESS looks like.

There is no single right way to establish a clear and common understanding of what you will see when your pupils are involved in high-quality PESS.  The key is to involve everybody and to keep the vision alive by ensuring that this is not a one-off exercise.

Stage 2: Evaluating how well your pupils match up to the outcomes
Teachers need to build a clear picture of what they want pupils to be achieving and what they are achieving, as there is often a difference. You need to ask yourself to what extent your youngsters are achieving the pupil outcomes and then find a way of tracking and communicating the answers. 

Decide whether you will evaluate each outcome individually or all of them together and also how you will evaluate them. Will you, for example, watch pupils in lessons, examine registers of participation, look at pupil activity logs, etc? Consider who will be involved in the evaluation – will you invite parents to have input, for instance?

It’s worth planning in advance, also, when you will run evaluations, for how long and whether you will repeat them. Your evaluation could last a week or a month depending on your chosen techniques. Or you could do short evaluations several times throughout the year. However you decide to organise it, it’s important that it doesn’t add significantly to your workload and that of your colleagues’. Look to see where existing approaches can be used to save duplication.

You will need to plan early on your methods of communicating your results. Schools have used different options; for example, a traffic light listing, where green shows that most pupils demonstrate the characteristic of the outcome, amber means about half do, and red means that few pupils do. Other options include a sliding scale or a number chart.  Whichever method you use, it’s important that everyone involved in delivering PESS can access and understand the results of your evaluation.

Stage 3: Identifying priorities for improving the quality of PESS
So, you should now have a picture of what your PESS provision is like in your school.  The next stage of self-evaluation is to analyse your results.  This will help you to establish why the picture of your school PE and sport is as it is.  Armed with the knowledge of what your PESS is like and why, you can now pinpoint what you would like to improve, increasing the numbers of pupils who demonstrate characteristics of high-quality outcomes.

It is unlikely that you will be able to do it all overnight, so identify which areas are priorities and work on these first. Form an improvement plan and break it down into manageable steps. For example, you may decide to concentrate your efforts on increasing the proportion of pupils who consistently meet most of the outcomes well or reducing the proportion of pupils who demonstrate only a few of the outcomes.

Stage 4: Taking action to bring about improvement

Having pinpointed your priorities for making improvements in your provision of PESS, you will need to decide how to bring about those improvements. Think about the relationship between what you are currently providing and the achievements, attitudes and behaviours you have seen in your pupils. Why are they demonstrating the outcomes that you observe?

Remember, too, that the quality of leadership, teaching and coaching has a huge impact on pupil outcomes. For example, if your self-evaluation indicates that your pupils have a low level of understanding of what they are trying to achieve and how to do it, you need to consider whether you and your team have been clear in teaching pupils the differences between how they have to think for each area of activity in the National Curriculum for PE and whether you share with pupils the criteria for success in their learning.

Stage 5: Checking whether you are making a difference
The final stage of self-evaluating is to accept that there is no final stage. It’s an ongoing process, and teachers and sports staff should be continually striving to improve their provision.  You can set up formal checks on progress, which should ideally be carried out regularly so that teachers, coaches and pupils are aware of the importance of the goals to be achieved. The same basic framework should be used for checks so that real comparisons can be made over time.  The most effective systems focus on what pupils are achieving, rather than on what teachers are doing.

But backing up a formal system, schools should have an informal system too. In schools that make the best progress, teachers and coaches constantly talk about the changes and improvements they see in their pupils and there is often an air of celebration when teachers share their pleasure in their pupils’ progress towards achieving higher PESS outcomes.

  • Do you have High Quality PE and Sport in your School? A Guide to Self-evaluating and Improving the Quality of PE and School Sport
  • High Quality PE and Sport for Young People: A Guide to Recognising and Achieving High Quality PE and Sport in Schools

Both guides are available from DfES Publications 0845 60 222 60 or as free downloads from:

‘Steps to Success’ section of the QCA website can be found at:

This article first appeared in PE & Sport Today – September 2007