A meaningful menu

My passion is play, and in particular the joy and connection that happen when people come together to play and move.

I come alive in a game of futsal or small-sided football. Nothing else matters once the game begins. The only thing that’s important is the Here and Now, and whatever other problems I have in my life disappear until the game is over. I love the competitive nature of the game, and the small team size and court size means I am always involved. Thus futsal provides me with Connection with others, Joy in movement, a good physical workout, and an important immersive experience which helps look after my mental health.

However, put me in a swimming pool and I will struggle to find this connection with joy. Instead, I will fight every second of being there, watching the clock and counting the lengths until – thankfully - it is over.

And so I appreciate that we will all find different meaning and purpose through different activities, and for some children it may take a lot of trial and error to find a role, activity or environment which resonates with them and brings them to life. We are all different.

Brilliant PE should help every child discover their own meaning for movement. In order to do this, we need to educate children in, through and about the physical. PE can’t just be about technical improvement nor should it be focused on fitness. We should aim for long-term success not short-term goals. Our mission should be for movement to become an important part of the children’s lives beyond school. To do this we need to provide a holistic diet based on the development of movement, social and thinking skills.

Of course, we are unlikely to ever know whether our students go on to live a life where movement contributes to their flourishing. How then should we understand and evaluate how well we are doing? This is a good question, and one that we should consider deeply. For me, we will know we are on the right track if every child is excited for their next PE lesson. 

My experiences over the years have helped me better understand the kinds of lessons which leave all children excited for more. It may sound difficult to provide PE which caters for all tastes, as it sounds as though we need to create a different dish for each child. However, by including choice, by encouraging independence and by developing a culture of collaboration, we provide children with the environment and tools that they need to create their own PE experiences. 'A Year of Primary PE' is a collection of all my best ideas of how to help children create their own meaning in movement while also developing the physical skills to move more skilfully. 

Make movement meaningful

A Year in Primary PE: 110 games  to support whole-child development from September to July

A must-have for every primary school


This book is a must-have for every primary school. Mark’s passion for PE, grounded in experience, shines through and he offers an alternative approach that focuses on the holistic development of each learner, as well as developing physical skills. Every activity is carefully planned, tried and tested, engaging and purposeful.

Further reading

  • Alex Beckey (@ImSporticus) blog on Meaningful PE (link)
  • LAMPE (Learning about meaningful PE research project) blog (link)
  • Podcasts with Greg Dryer (@Greg_Dryer) here and here.