Impact of Kit in PE Lessons

Many teachers have different opinions on kit in PE Lessons. Looking through an online discussion I found any opinion from “enforce PE kit to the hilt using detentions and other sanctions to reinforce rules” to “let the kids where what they want to avoid kit issues and focus lessons on learning”.

When I went into teaching 6 years ago I always said that I would be true to my beliefs (a concept that has been challenged in some testing situations!). One of my beliefs is that schools should set high expectations of all pupils and expect pupils to raise their performance in line with these expectations. In my view expectations should never be lowered to be ‘more achievable’ for pupils who struggled to meet them. Recently moving out of a school in special measures I have seen the impact of some staff lowering expectations of behaviour and other key aspects of school life.

I have a very strong belief in PE Kit and the effect it has on the standard of learning in lessons. At the start of this blog I have no idea why I believe in this, it’s just something I see as a key part of running a successful PE Department. The point of this blog is to try and investigate why kit is important and whether it does have an effect on the standard of behaviour, attitude to learning and other key aspects of teaching and learning.

An investigation into the link between sport and positive behaviour by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’s PE and School Sport (PESS) in 2009 concluded that physical activity has a motivational impact on children, increasing their self-esteem and general wellbeing. It also found that PE and sport helps children to develop essential social skills such as concentration, self-discipline, cooperation and an awareness of the need to think of things and people other than themselves.

I think that if you asked any educator what abilities they want pupils to have by the time they leave school the chances are they will say key skills such as self discipline, concentration and cooperation and not obviously taught skills such as trigonometry and how to kick a football. So where does PE kit fall into this educational vision?

Can enforcing PE kit policy help nurture these desirable human qualities? It is my belief that setting a consistent expectation of the appearance of pupils in PE lessons reduces the levels of bullying, removes the ambiguity of what sporting ‘fashion wear’ is expectable and what isn’t and encourages a level of self discipline and ability to follow structures and rules.

Whilst I understand why some educators see PE kit as a negative reinforcement of self expression and have concerns that it results in some negative relationships being created with pupils who want to rebel against these rules, whilst still working hard in lessons, I see it as an important aspect that underpins pupil’s moral education within the school.

I have run some difficult classes in the past as a sports team would be run. I try to encourage the pupils to always think about what they’re doing and whether it would be acceptable within a professional sports team. For example, would a professional footballer turn up for training without their boots? Would an athlete attend an event without a tracksuit to wear in the cold weather between events? The answer is no and this is the same answer within lessons. Pupils should treat their PE lessons as an opportunity to aim for the best, if they prepare for lessons and conduct themselves in lessons as a professional performer would then they are naturally more likely to achieve their potential. For me, PE kit is essential for preparing pupils for a lifelong involvement in physical activity and making them think like athletes- aiming to produce their best performance every time they step out of the changing rooms.

As previously stated I believe that it’s important in education to set high expectations of everyone. This is evident in lesson planning- if you plan a good lesson and it falls short it is in need of improvement (to quote ofsted language!), but if you aim for an outstanding lesson and it falls short it will still be good.

The same is true for PE kit. I believe that if you set the highest expectations of kit then when pupils fall short of meeting that expectation then the result will not be cataclysmic. In my experience if you set high standards, explain to pupils that these are non negotiable and will never lower despite any objection, then they will raise their performance to meet these expectations.

PE kit should be an important part of setting high and consistent expectations of behaviour and dress in any PE department and should underpin behaviour for learning.

As stated at the beginning of this blog- this is merely my opinion on this issue. If you have a contrasting or differing opinion then please comment and share your views on this contentious issue.

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