Bridging the gap at Key Stage Three and Four for GCSE/BTEC PE @TeacherTriangle

By @TeacherTriangle at

The key stage three PE whiteboard design below was developed to help:

  • Improve consistency of teaching and learning across the department.
  • Reduce planning time for staff.
  • Improve differentiated questioning for staff and student leaders. 
  • Drip-feed GCSE/BTEC content (1% philosophy).
  • Drip-feed mindset development (mental toughness and resilience).
  • Bring simplicity to ‘life without levels‘ for students (Red, Amber, Green)1.Where am I now? 2.Where do I need to go? 3.How do I get there?
  • Develop students literacy skills (learning conversation – evaluating and analysing performance).


Background – getting the balance right at Key Stage Three

Firstly, at the end of the day our subject should be predominantly physical and I am personally really passionate about this, because that is why we do what we do. Over the last few years it has become increasingly apparent that during key stage three and possibly key stage two, we need to start to find the right balance of introducing GCSE theory content into our lessons. It is imperative that it doesn’t overtake the PHYSICAL aspect of our subject. It is clearly about finding a way to drip-feed it each and every lesson (1% philosophy). I do feel that applying GCSE content into PE lessons is an essential and necessary part of our modern day PE lessons and when done in the correct way can really accelerate the learning process. This has been clearly evident over the last few years with my students. We have made many changes to get it right and I would like to share these ideas with you to hopefully help in anyway or inspire you to come up with some new ideas.

Three years ago the key questions that arose were;

  1. What would a lesson look like?
  2.  When do we apply it in our lesson?
  3.  What GCSE/BTEC content do we add to our lesson?
  4. What do we assess?

1. What would a lesson look like? 

After three or four years of developing, changing and improving what we do this is what we currently do during our PE lessons.

At the beginning of the lesson students are split up into differentiated groups. Within each group there is a leadership role for most of the students within (adapted sport education model) it, which are;

  • Warm up and skill drill leader – before they start the warm up the leader makes sure everyone understands the lesson objective. They then in a group warm up in a straight line together (pulse raiser) and then complete this with stretches in a circle. They make sure everyone in their group know and understand the three key coaching points for the skill being developed within the lesson. When students have been working on the drill in question for a while and the teacher is happy, it is then the job of the leader to develop the skill (skill development). If students can’t come up with ways to develop the drill straight away try to give them that struggle/thinking time. 
  • GCSE/BTEC content leader – In charge of making sure everyone in their group understands the GCSE/BTEC questions on the whiteboard. This is done after students have completed the warm up. If anyone of the students do not know the answer when the teacher questions them after their pulse raiser and stretches they can not go onto the skill drill.
  • Mindset development Leader– in charge of making sure all the group understand the outstanding learning value and why it is important in lessons and in life.
  • Literacy leader – in charge of developing students learning conversation. Adapted SOLO taxonomy technique to help students get familiar with key questioning words that come up time and time again in exam papers (define, describe, explain, justify, evaluate, analyse etc).
  • Attitude to learning Leader– (behaviour spies) during the plenary they discuss the students attitudes to learning within their group and nominate the students with the best attitude to learning in their group and explain why. Teacher selects students at the beginning of the lesson.

2. When do we apply it in our lesson?

Before the students go off and lead their warm up the students sit in front of the white board (if outside there is a white board in the changing room) to discuss the lesson objective, GCSE word of the day, focus muscle of the day and outstanding learning value of the day (mindset development). Students then learn about all of the above through facilitated learning and guided discovery throughout the lesson.

Due to the design of the board it reduces teachers planning time and helps develop improved, differentiated and focused questioning. Using the key GCSE words at the side of the board (skill and health related components of fitness), which is on velcro, teachers can transfer the words to the GCSE content area on the whiteboard.

The GCSE content is applied into the lesson after the students have led their pulse raiser and stretching. They must get into a circle and discuss the GCSE questions led by the GCSE leader. If when questioned they get any questions wrong they can’t move onto the skill drill. The GCSE leader has a resource to help with learning about the GCSE content. Below is a video of how students drip-feed GCSE content during their warm up. The leaders need to explain this to their group after stretching. You can use the same idea by simply printing off the definition for the key GCSE words or concepts you are working on for that particular lesson and give it to your select GCSE Leader.

3. What GCSE content do we add to our lesson?

As we are fully aware there is a vast amount of GCSE content to cover – so what do we prioritise in our lessons? We use the concept of spiral learning, what I mean by that, is students learn about different GCSE content for different sports. E.g for invasion games they focus on health/skill related components of fitness and muscles in the body (as seen in the pictures). During the fitness unit of work, students focus on methods of training, bones, nutrition and fitness testing. It is simply about getting students GCSE ready without having a detrimental affect on the physical aspect of our subject. 

4. What do we assess? 

Students are assessed on 5 key areas of development within each sport/activity which are:

  1. Physical Skills/Literacy (performance)
  2. Literacy Skills (learning conversation)
  3. GCSE content – Knowledge and understanding
  4. Mindset Development (mental toughness)
  5. Leadership

For each topic area students use their topic profile sheet along with the teachers guidance to assess where they are at for each assessment area at the beginning of the unit. This is then completed at the end of the unit of work. This helps students develop their targets and areas for improvement for each area of assessment.

At the end of each unit of work students complete a theory test on the key areas of learning throughout the unit. They get questioned on the key coaching points, GCSE content and the outstanding learner values (mindset development). This then helps provide an overall and clearer picture of where the student is at for their physical skills, knowledge and understanding and their mindset development. Leadership underpins every unit of work to help develop students confidence and self-esteem.

Final thought 

I fully agree with @MrFallick who stated ‘it is about keeping Physical Education pen free’. It is about the ‘1% philosophy’ in that if we drip-feed GCSE/BTEC content in the correct way each and every lesson, at the end of the year you will be amazed at what your students will have learned. This has clearly been evident within my current year 10 GCSE class, they knew all the components of fitness, methods of training, muscles, bones and some fitness tests and methods of training. As you can imagine this gave me scope to deepen their knowledge and understanding on all of these topic areas above because they had the basic and fundamental understanding. They have been the first GCSE cohort who have been subject to this method of teaching since year 8.


I hope this has maybe given you something to think about. If you like the design of the whiteboard you can download here.

If anyone has any questions or would like to discuss this further please get in touch.

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Written by @PE4Learning
Founder of PE4Learning - Sharing Creative PE Ideas and Resources