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Stages of a Child’s Physical Development


hat should we be focusing our teaching on when supporting children in Physical Education?

The information below should help all teachers, educators, and coaches to think more about the approaches you use and the expectations you have in terms of the complexity of tasks set.

Throughout the first stage of maturity in the primary years, movements are still being learnt and developed and children tent to play alongside a friend rather that with one. Basic rules and behaviours are being learnt and children show great enthusiasm to have a go as experience has not yet taught them fear or danger awareness. There is, however, a limited awareness of space and others and you are likely to see children like this from EYFS, into the early part of year 2.

How can you use this information to set out what you can expect your children to achieve?

During the second stage of maturity, basic movements have been learnt and children start to develop these into more recognisable skills, though control and fluency are still inconsistent. Children like to play with one or more friends and need to be noticed as individuals as they become more self-aware. They tend to enjoy physical activity but want more structure and rules as they begin to recognise some risks. They are much more aware of space and others and we are likely to see children like these from year 2 to the beginnings of year 4.

What do you expect a child in this group to be capable of? 

Finally, within the third stage of maturity, children have more formed and clear movement. They begin to refine them so that they become more recognisable specific skills that are performed with greater control. They like to feel part of a group or team and get their recognition from being part of something bigger. Some children tend to lose interest in physical activity, as other activities start to take their time, so they are more discerning about what they take part in. They understand and use rules and structures to being to be more creative about how they tackle tasks and challenges. Children now become more critical in their evaluations of both themselves and their peers, whilst coming up with their own solutions and approaches. You are likely to see this from the end of year 4 to year 6.

Does your school’s PE timetable and curriculum cater for the differentiating needs for children to progress? 

In any one lesson, 4 elements are particularly important:

  1. Be clear about what is to be learnt and what success looks like.
  2. Ensure the approaches used are positively significant for each child.
  3. There must be sufficient challenge for each child.
  4. Provide options and choices for each child to make.


Great teaching leads to great learning. Learning is a verb and so you should be able to see it!

Author James Latham, Trust PE Lead

Excelsior Multi Academy Trust

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