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Monitoring – it’s role in Safe Practice & Managing Risk

5 March 2024

The Essential Role of Monitoring in Managing Risk in Primary PESSPA – how aware are you?

I am often told by primary PE subject leaders that they have never had any time out of their class teacher role or of their teaching time to actually monitor the subject that they are charged with leading. How can anyone effectively lead a subject without monitoring and then evaluating what they see, hear etc. – surely when you consider this logically or when you look at the Ofsted definition of effective subject leadership the answer has to be you can’t. Yet all too many primary PE leads have not had the opportunity to monitor their subject. What better use of the PE and sport premium than in driving improvement, including safe effective practice than ensuring time to monitor?

We all know that monitoring is important for standards in teaching and pupils’ achievement, in driving improvements and ensuring inclusive, equitable provision. However, few teachers that I talk to realise the important role that it also plays – perhaps even the essential role it plays in helping to manage risk.

Far too often I also find that schools do not have any written Risk Assessments for physical education (PE) or even PESSPA as a whole. Many also have no access to what I consider to be the ‘bible for safe practice’ – the ‘Safe Practice in Physical Education, School Sport and Physical Activity’ guidance manual produced by the subject association afPE. The current tenth edition, 2020 is a must for ALL primary schools and I am always so disappointed to find schools without access to the guidance and support that this manual offers.

Case law indicates that policy and procedures for managing risk in PESSPA should be:

  • In written form (is this the case in your school?)
  • Specific to the school (and any venues used by it)
  • Reasonably comprehensive (are yours?)
  • Regularly reviewed (typically annually – when was yours reviewed? If you have one?)
  • Regularly communicated (does this even happen in your school?)
  • Consistently applied by staff contributing to the PESSPA programme (does this happen?)

How do you know? What evidence do you have? What is the impact? Three very common KLOE’s in school improvement – Key Lines of Enquiry. Apply them to the indicative bullet points above and see where you are.

So, as well as having school specific, reasonably comprehensive, regularly reviewed, written risk assessments to support all (pupils, staff, visitors et al) they should be regularly communicated and consistently applied by all staff contributing to the PESSPA programme.

If you do not have any opportunity to monitor this and manage this, how can you ensure that you are keeping your pupils, staff and others safe? Is your schools practice consistent and within safe practice? This is strong advocacy above and beyond the need to monitor standards if needed and when considered with the role it can play in reducing the possibility of negligence and litigation it adds considerable weight to the argument that PE subject leaders must be given time, training, and support to monitor all aspects of their subject in the school.

It is worth primary PE subject leaders making themselves aware of afPE’s guidance on managing risk and the potential for negligence – if of course you have the 2020 (10th edition) manual of Safe Practice in Physical education, School Sport and Physical Activity!

‘Local authorities, Governing Bodies or Trusts remain liable for any negligent act relating to their services and programmes., including where these are contracted out to a third party to use technical expertise not necessarily available within the direct workforce of the school staff. Where the external agency is found to be negligent, it is the school authority that would be in breach of its duty of care to students.

The school must continuously monitor and manage that whoever carries out duties on its behalf does so without fault, and not simply rely on a pre-check of competence.’

afPE – Safe Practice in PESSPA – Tenth Edition (2020) p15 ref: 1.4.15


So, do YOU monitor? This includes any lessons delivered by outside agencies or those employed to teach physical education in your school as you are responsible and thereby liable for any negligent activity by such individuals or organisations.

This is just one of many reasons why you need to monitor and evaluate the quality of your PE provision and how it helps ensure that you have a portfolio of risk management in place (more about this in a later Blog). It is a very significant one and could protect your school, Trust or Local Authority potentially from litigation. Perhaps you can add this to your rationale of why you MUST be allowed to monitor your subject?

Without proper support, guidance and training the role of PE Subject Leader in a primary school can be a daunting one, all-encompassing and demanding on top of your main role. It is not surprising that the ‘churn’ of subject leadership in the subject is so high.

Having worked with PE subject leaders for over 25 years, I am acutely aware of the lack of support, time and guidance afforded to those who are co-ordinating the subject. I use the term co-ordinating deliberately as I hope that I have shown that you cannot be leading a subject if you are unaware of the exact nature of your role, have no real awareness of what is being taught, how it is being taught and the impact on pupils learning, well-being, safety, and attitudes. This is NOT a criticism but a reflection simply on the landscape and the realities of being a PE subject leader in a primary school.

We have put together our national qualification course to tackle just this problem – giving schools access to high quality training to support and guide those staff in the role. We also offer unlimited support to those we work with so we can help them to discuss, reflect, advocate for, and share practice from not just the UK but abroad as we work with schools internationally.

Take a look at the course via the link below or on our website

National Qualification in Leadership & Management in Primary PE

This is exactly what you should be considering spending your PE and sport premium funding on – upskilling yourself as a leader of the subject and using this knowledge, skills and understanding to drive improvements in the subject where they are needed. Hence why monitoring is so important – without it you cannot drive the subject effectively or the improvement agenda required to ensure high quality provision because you don’t know what is needed.

As a company we also work individually on a 1:1 basis to either deliver this course or simply to help address issues that PE leaders are having. We are here to support you but you can help yourself by ensuring access to the right guidance document of safety – afPE’s Safe Practice in PESSPA and advocating the need for you to monitor and evaluate the quality of PE provision across your school.

You are welcome to contact us to discuss any matters arising from your role as subject leader.

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