Teaching children to be active

Influencing physical education policy and practice worldwide

Although physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, more than 80% of children are not active enough to benefit their health.

Our research has led to changes in health-related physical education (HRPE) policy, curricula and practices worldwide as well as the expansion and enhancement of HRPE professional development.

Our work informed UNESCO’s Quality Physical Education () Guidelines for Policymakers which have resulted in the adoption of new PE policies in three developing countries - South Africa, Mexico and Zambia - as well as in Qatar.

Our impact

Influencing global curricula development

  • We have changed health-related PE curricula development in many countries including England, Wales, Singapore and Qatar.
  • Our research has contributed to the UNESCO QPE guidelines implemented worldwide and featured in Qatar’s national PE Curriculum Standards.

PE teacher training and CPD – moving the focus to health

  • We have designed health-related training and resources for teachers at every stage of their career.
  • This is helping them to promote active lifestyles – and the health benefits of physical activity – whilst monitoring pupil activity levels.

The research

Our research, dating back to the mid-1980s, has significantly influenced health-related PE policy and practice worldwide.

We have also addressed the shortcomings of initial teacher education and professional development, and ensured that PE teachers are confident promoters of lifelong physical activity.

In doing so, we have steered a move away from a narrow fitness-and-performance-orientated approach to an inclusive, holistic physical-activity-for-life focus.

In 2001, the Youth Sport Trust commissioned us to develop Fit for Life resources for use with 14-16 year-olds.

Our book (Human Kinetics, 2019) has been described as a “breakthrough” for teachers, helping them to offer meaningful health-related learning for students – within and beyond school.

This activity has addressed a notable gap in provision for PE teachers – equipping them to effectively support children to lead active, healthy lifestyles.

Jo and Lorraine鈥檚 inspirational work in this area...has led to significant changes and improvements in curriculum design, schemes of work and teaching styles... I believe that few people have contributed more to advancing good practice in our subject.

David Geldart Assistant Headteacher and former Director of Physical Education and Sport - St Mary's RC High School, Leeds

Research funders

  • British Heart Foundation
  • Nuffield Foundation
  • National Assembly for Wales
  • Youth Sport Trust

Meet the experts

Photograph of Jo Harris

Professor Jo Harris

Emeritus Professor of Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy

Photograph of Lorraine Cale

Professor Lorraine Cale

Professor of Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy