Teaching PE for the First Time: Where are You Starting from?

Teaching PE for the first time can be daunting whether you are a specialist PE teacher or not. In this series of blog posts, we will look at a few questions that can get you off to a good start. Today, we will focus on you the teacher by considering your experience of PE and your levels of confidence in teaching PE.

How do you feel about PE?

Do you love it, loathe it, or are you somewhere in the middle?

Why does it matter? You may ask. Your emotions about PE and your childhood experiences will affect your attitude towards teaching PE now.

Researchers found that teachers who had negative childhood experiences of PE lacked confidence and a desire to teach PE.1

In contrast, teachers who had positive experiences of PE tended to enjoy physical activities, both at school and as adults, and feel confident teaching those activities.2

Are you a PE teacher or a teacher who teaches PE?

It is important to acknowledge that whilst some of you are specialist PE teachers, others may have had little training in teaching PE or have little inclination to do so.

The Specialist PE Teacher

If you are a specialist PE teacher, you are probably keen to instill a lifelong love of physical activity in your students, as you know the benefits and enjoyment it brings. Your strength is your passion, confidence and competence in PE. If you loved PE as a child and are a sports fan, you bring that enthusiasm to your teaching. The area you would like to develop may be making PE more accessible to the children on the edges who struggle.

The Generalist Teacher

You may lack confidence in teaching PE and do so reluctantly. It may feel out of your comfort zone. If you hated PE as a child, and describe yourself as ‘non sporty’, you can bring empathy to the children in your class who are reluctant to engage in PE.3

You will know how children might struggle with self-esteem and self-confidence in the lesson. You can make things different for your class. You can make PE welcoming, safe and enjoyable for your students.

Who do you identify with?

We’ve thought about your feelings, levels of training, experience and confidence with teaching PE.

Which of the teachers below do you resonate with?

Amy loved PE as a child. She was involved in a neighbourhood football club and did swimming lessons after school. Her family was sporty and enjoyed playing and watching sports together. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a PE teacher, and she specialised in PE during her teacher training. Amy can’t wait to start teaching PE and wants all her students to participate fully.

Tom hated PE. He was always the last to be picked for a team. He felt self-conscious about his weight and changing for PE was the worst part of his week. As an adult, he’s relieved to not have to exercise apart from the swim when his back hurts. He’s not had to teach PE before as his school outsourced lessons to external coaches. But that’s changed, and all staff now have to teach PE. He feels nervous about starting to teach PE this term.

Are you like Amy – a specialist PE teacher who can’t wait to start teaching PE?

Are you like Tom – lacking confidence with teaching PE and not sure where to start?


All of your experiences are valid and can be useful as you start teaching PE for the first time.

If you loved PE as a child, what made it so good? Was it the activities you enjoyed? Did you have an encouraging teacher? Was it being selected for a team first? How can you bring those positive experiences into your teaching?

If you didn’t like PE, what was it that made it difficult? The narrow range of activities? Having a teacher that seemed to prefer the sporty students? Being the last to be picked for a partner? What can you do differently to make your lessons more inclusive and help children to enjoy PE?

This blog post is adapted from the book ‘Inclusive PE for SEND Children’ available on Amazon and IngramSpark from September 15 2023.   

Read part 2 of this series – Where are your students starting from?  


  1. Sprake, Andrew and Temple, Claire. “Physical Education or Physical Entertainment: where’s the education in PE?” Journal of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies, vol. 10, no. 4, 2016, pp. 157-176Morgan, Phillip and Bourke, Sid. “Non-specialist teachers’ confidence to teach PE: the nature and influence of personal school experiences”, PE, Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy vol. 13, no. 1,
    2008,pp. 1-29. DOI: 10.1080/17408980701345550
  2. Morgan, Phillip and Bourke, Sid. “Non-specialist teachers’ confidence to teach PE: the nature and influence of personal school experiences”, PE, Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy vol. 13, no. 1,
    2008,pp. 1-29. DOI: 10.1080/17408980701345550
  3. A study by Portman (1996) found that trainee teachers who had negative childhood experiences of PE were keen not to repeat the bad experiences and embarrassing situations they remembered on
    their students. Portman, P. A. “Preservice elementary education majors beliefs about their elementary physical education classes (Pt. 1)”, Indiana Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and
    Dance Journal vol. 25, no.2, 1996, pp. 25-28.