Physical education, physical activity and physical literacy, what’s the difference?

These terms are always talked about in the world of PE, but do we really know the difference between them? If not, then are we really differentiating between them in school? Let’s look at each one in a bit more detail:

Physical Education:

The Association for PE states that physical education is the “planned, progressive learning that takes place in school curriculum time and which is delivered to all pupils”. The Department for Education recommends that children should be provided with at least 2 hours of physical education a week. PE sessions should be planned around desired outcomes and the acquisition and application of both physical and technical skills.

Physical Activity:

The World Health Organisation defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure”. This sort of movement should be vigorous enough to raise the child’s heart rate, but gentle enough that they are still able to speak. The amount of physical activity recommended per day for children is age dependent. For example, children under the age of 5 should spend at least 3 hours a day being physically active, with this decreasing to just 60 minutes for children aged 5+. Activities can include walking, playing outside and using a scooter/bike.

Physical Literacy:

According to the International Physical Literacy Association, Physical Literacy is the “motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life”. A child who is physically literate has the combination of basic fundamental movements and skills necessary to successfully lead active lives throughout childhood and beyond.

Once you have seen each one broken down into finer detail, it is clear to see why schools must provide regular physical activity and high quality physical education to ensure children become physically literate. A coalition in America wanted to highlight how poor physical literacy in childhood can lead to the downfall of even the most basic of physical needs in adulthood

If you would like some ideas for keeping children active during the school day, then sign up to become an Active Member today! We will be looking at top tips for creating a physically active school day in our first Active Update Newsletter, with some handy resources to go alongside it. Sign up here.

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