King’s Leadership Academy Liverpool is a coeducational secondary school and sixth form located in Dingle, Liverpool. King's Liverpool is a non-selective school with ‘grammar school’ experiences and culture.
They are one of four schools we have partnered with as part of our ‘Liverpool RISE Up’ Trauma Informed PE pilot programme in collaboration with the brilliant team at the Liverpool School Sports Partnership.
They have done a fantastic job of implementing the programme to create ‘meaningful PE’ experiences for a group of disengaged Year 8 girls. Brilliant PE teacher, Polly Crawley, and Inspirational Trust PE Lead teacher, Louise Mansell, talk us through their intent for the RISE Up programme, how they implemented it, and its impact on their young people.
Our intent for our ‘Rise Up’ programme was to improve the mindset and behaviour of one of our (shared) female Y8 classes (consisting of 18 students) through a variety of inclusive activities and lessons catered towards their personal preferences and centred around mental wellbeing and the positive impact that physical activity can have on young people.
Mindset and Meaningful PE
We ultimately wanted to provide our students in this class with a more positive mindset towards PE and physical activity, different ‘self-care’ strategies regarding mental wellbeing, and the knowledge to be able to lead healthy active lifestyles both during and after they have left school.
Many students within this class held very negative attitudes towards PE and often displayed inappropriate behaviours towards each other which sometimes resulted in disruptive arguments and even physical altercations.
Breaking down Barriers
It was also evident that a lot of our students unfortunately struggled with issues regarding their self-image, physical ability and confidence, which became particularly apparent when asking them to get changed into their kit or when asking them to engage and participate within activities.
We wanted to break down these personal barriers and negative mindsets, and instead, provide them with the knowledge required for them to self-regulate their emotions, improve their self-esteem so that they could be kinder not only to their peers, but to themselves - while simultaneously demonstrating to them how PE can be a psychologically safe and beneficial environment for them to thrive in.
We completed an adapted version of the Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale survey and the school wellbeing scorecard so that we could track the impact of the programme. We scored 53% back in March 2023. It was a good starting point, but we wanted to do more for the young people that we serve.
We first implemented the programme by allowing the students involved to wear their PE kits to school on days where they had PE. We identified the ‘changing’ aspect of our lessons to be a problem for these students and decided that this would not only increase lesson time but also assist with their self-confidence and body image concerns.
Immediately, this had a positive effect on the start of lessons and removed any arguments surrounding getting changed or forgetting kit.
We then used their timetabled PE lessons to implement the programme, combining both practical and theory lessons.
Some of our practical lessons, inspired by the programme’s intent, included yoga, nature walks, an active Easter egg hunt with prizes, and a session based around OCD, hygiene, and healthy nutrition, where we made fruit smoothies, (making a huge mess in the process), and then cleaned up together as a team.
Our theory lessons involved group discussions and a ‘no judgement’ environment where we shared ideas on mental wellbeing strategies and explored topics such as self-esteem, body image, and mental health – all with an underlying link to sport and physical activity.
When first implementing the programme to our school, we discussed it with our Headteacher who made clear that budgeting could be provided to enable us to offer trips and / or prizes to the students completing it, so this is something we aim to follow up towards the end of the year.
Overall, the programme has had a definite positive impact on the majority of the students in our Year 8 class, and the general attitude towards our lessons is significantly more optimistic than it was previously.
We no longer have struggles or arguments regarding PE kits, and it is often that students will express their excitement or enjoyment for these lessons, despite having demonstrated negative mindsets in the past, which has been very gratifying for us to witness.
Students have also begun to showcase a far greater understanding of mental health and wellbeing, and an awareness of the various coping strategies associated with this.
Since commencing the programme in March, we have witnessed a significant improvement to the overall behaviour and attitude of the students in this class, and it has become clear that the students involved have adopted a greater sense of respect and collaboration for each other. This is something they lacked as a majority at the start of the year.
The graph below demonstrates the considerable drop in negative behaviour events for this class in PE (alone) since the start of the year.
Since commencing the programme in March, our highest number of behaviour events in a lesson has been 3, whereas our previous highest number of events in one lesson was 7.5.
From our class of 18, only two students have failed to respond to the programme as of yet, and continue to demonstrate reluctance and negativity towards it. Despite our efforts, we are still yet to witness a constructive change in their attitudes and will continue to monitor this throughout the remainder of the programme. We won’t give up on them and will do our best to create an environment that will eventually help them feel psychologically safe in PE.
We presented our students involved with a questionnaire in order to gather a greater impression of their opinions on the programme. We have identified some key quotes taken from these:
What have you enjoyed most about the programme / lessons so far?
“I enjoyed doing yoga”
“the yoga and smoothies”
“When we did yoga it was fun and relaxing”
“getting to understand people”
Do you feel more positive towards PE lessons, and if so why?
“Yes I do, I like it because now if someone says ‘you can’t’ I don’t believe them”
“Yes I do, if you want to do it just do it, don’t listen to what people say”
“Yes, I feel more excited for it and it’s more fun”
“I feel more better in PE and more happy”
“I feel more confident”
Has being able to wear your PE kit to school made you feel better around PE and getting changed, if so why?
“It’s easier to do and faster”
“It’s more comfortable”
“We don’t waste time during PE lessons and get better exercise”
Using their answers, we re-visited our adapted Short Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing scale survey for the perceptions of our children’s progress of their mental wellbeing. The results showed that each of the 7 areas had improved from the lowest possible score to the highest.
We also completed the school wellbeing scorecard again. Our score increased to 88%, showing an improvement of 35%.
This programme will certainly impact our work moving forward as it has provided us with a newly adapted, more progressive approach that centres heavily around mental health and wellbeing and less on purely just sport and skill-based PE.
This new approach to our lessons recognises the importance of holistic development and ultimately creates a more inclusive and supportive environment for our students. We now practise the acknowledgement that physical fitness is just one aspect of overall wellbeing, and mental and emotional health are equally significant.
By integrating mindfulness and relaxation techniques, promoting emotional regulation, and providing mental health education as part of this programme, we can address the diverse needs of our students more accurately, but also contribute positively to productivity within PE settings and create a more fulfilling experience for students that will in time, improve their attitude towards these lessons.
Having witnessed success from this one cohort, we will definitely seek to incorporate the programme into other classes, with the overarching aim of implementing it officially across our four ‘Trust’ schools.
How we can help you
If you would like to join our movement of inspirational teachers, then the RISE Up online teacher training course guides you and your colleagues on how to reduce students' anxiety, build their confidence, and create a sustainable early intervention mental wellbeing programme within 90 days.
Easy to follow videos and a comprehensive set of editable resources will save you and your colleagues hours of time planning and creating resources.
To take the first step, take our School Wellbeing scorecard here: