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When I started teaching twenty years ago, PE was very much performance based and dependent on outcome. Basically, how good your school teams could be for bragging rights over neighbouring schools. Towards the end of my teaching career our PE Department spent more time trying to reach students through cross-curricular PSHE and PE lessons to teach them about healthy eating and stress-relieving techniques such as meditation.
We all know that obesity levels in children are increasing at an alarming rate, we also know that mental health and stress-related illnesses in adolescents and young people are also on the rise, and I genuinely believe that PE is going to be one of the key ways to try and combat these issues. This will require for physical education to continue to evolve, and for teachers to be willing to try different approaches to help students to become physically, mentally and socially healthy in all aspects of their lives, not just on the playing field.
Since I started PE Direct, I’m always interested to hear about the initiatives that our schools and teachers are using. I have been particularly impressed with Jon Watkins at Cardiff West who recently stated that their aim is not only to increase fitness and confidence at school, but also teach pupils how to look after themselves long after they leave school. “The truth is that the majority of pupils will not continue team sports when they leave school”.


Gemma Williams, a PE teacher at Cardiff West who has worked there for over 20 years said it we have to get the well-being right before we can teach them anything. She tries to get pupils to understand that there is more to being physically and mentally healthy than just going for a run or playing in a team every so often. I’m sure we all have students who turn up looking pale and tired, who struggle to engage with lessons early in the morning, or complain of feeling sick. ‘What did you have for breakfast?’, ‘Nothing, no time’ or ‘I don’t eat breakfast’ they tell me. Gemma has started working with targeted groups to work on basic diet and exercise plans and she said she is seeing a real difference.
Well done to Jon, Gemma and the rest of the PE department in Cardiff West, it’s great to see a school moving with the times and using PE to be such a positive force for wellbeing!