Cross-sector curriculum and assessment: The United Learning PE and Health curriculum

United Learning is a national group of over 50 independent schools and state academies.  Over the past 12-18 months, the PE and sport network of the group have been developing a curriculum and assessment framework ready for teaching from September 2016. In the introduction to the curriculum we articulated why this cross-sector collaboration was particularly important in PE:

It is often argued that the greatest disparity between the state and independent sectors lies in the realm of PE and school sport. We value the distinctive nature and philosophy of the two sectors, but are encouraged by the shared learning from each other that we have already experienced. Nowhere has this been more evident than through this curriculum and assessment work. The final outcome provides a common, unique United Learning curriculum framework, but one with sufficient flexibility for the traditions and cultures of each school to be retained and celebrated.  The philosophy underpinning this curriculum has been guided by the group’s aims and ethos; the resulting content has been shaped by the Framework for Excellence; and the process has reflected the group’s mission of collaboration across the sectors.”

From the outset it was essential that both sectors felt ownership of both the process and the eventual outcome.  Directors of Sport from two of our independent schools sat on the Working Group to ensure that the independent school perspective was considered throughout.  In reality, everyone looked at the potential for a cross-sector curriculum through the same lens. Whilst we had many philosophical and intellectual debates about various aspects of curriculum content and assessment terminology, none of those discussions were along state/independent lines.  

Our profession can be proud of the amount of common ground we found there to be between the two sectors, notwithstanding the contrasting traditions and contexts.  This was a process about core Physical Education rather than school sport per se.  Questions which helped to direct our thinking included:

  • What are the outcomes we want from PE for our young people, whichever school they attend?  
  • What should a distinctive United Learning PE curriculum look and feel like, regardless of the specific activities which are taught?

Learning from some input our head of department conference had received from the Youth Sport Trust a year before, and having read afPE’s ‘Assessment without Levels’ publication, we began to construct our vision for a curriculum.  Over the course of twelve months the Working Group developed draft plans; pilot schools trialled some of the assessment Key Performance Indicators (KPIs); and colleagues from schools in the group were consulted for their feedback and input.  The result is summarised in the following model:

The three themes of performance, leadership and health gained universal support. Placing physical activity at the heart of our work even more so. Furthermore, in our ‘minimum entitlements’ we have included the right for every student to experience being taught in a challenging physical environment and learning an adapted/disability sport. In doing so we have the ambition to develop students’ empathy and characteristics such as resilience and determination.

We look forward to sharing more details and content about this cross-sector PE and Health curriculum at a conference for Independent Coach Education at some point in the near future.  We will also be presenting at the Optimus Education conference on PE, Health and School Sport in November.

About the author

Schools Together celebrates and encourages partnership projects between independent schools, state schools and local communities.