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What's The Difference Between Physical Activity, Physical Education and School Sport?

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

"Exercise is the miracle cure we've have always had, but for too long we've neglected to take our recommended dose. Our health is now suffering as a consequence." - NHS

With Physical Activity being pushed further to the front of everyone's mind at this time, how are you staying fit and healthy?

However you are keeping active, what actually is it that you are doing? Is Physical Activity the same as Physical Education and School Sport? In short... no. They are similar but there are clear differences between them that should be understood.

Physical Activity

Physical Activity is a broad term used to describe bodily movement. Therefore, this will include PE and School Sport but will also include less formal activities such as walking to school, going on a bike ride with the family or jumping on the trampoline in the garden.

Physical Education

Physical Education is focused towards the participant learning a new skill. Often this will be completed over a sequence of planned lessons to help establish a new skill and develop a technique further. For example, in a tennis lesson a child may learn the forehand stroke over two or three weeks through a mixture of different activities.

School Sport

School Sport is also Physical Activity but will include more extra-curricular activities. For example, an inter-school competition between local schools. In the UK, not every child has to attend an event but a strong sporting curriculum will allow every child in the school the opportunity to attend at least one event per year. This differs from Physical Education in the variation of it's goal. School Sport is the process of getting children involved in sport, this may be a one-off event or a repeating extra-curricular activity. It does not necessarily have to focus on learning a new skill but often will.

Food for thought...

As a school develops their offerings to their pupils, a school should ensure they focus on utilising each of these three concepts. For example, it is unlikely that every child could reach their goal of 30 minutes of physical activity through Physical Education alone during the school day. It is therefore important to consider how you can keep children active beyond their PE lessons and to consider where Physical Activity and School Sports fit into your school day alongside formal PE lessons. With this in mind, what can your school do to get more children active during the day?

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