Blog: New Physical Education and School Sport Qualifications explained


James Robinson, Head of Qualification Development at 1st4sport Qualifications, shares some of the background and his views.

Here, he explains how the new Physical Education and School Sport Suite of qualifications came about, and why he feels they could make a significant contribution to raising the standard of delivery of physical education and school sport. The Suite includes:

What does 1st4sport Qualifications do?

As an awarding organisation regulated by Ofqual and the SQA, our job is to develop qualifications that meet the industry’s needs, support our recognised centres in the delivery of our qualifications to learners, and provide the quality assurance in the awarding of those qualifications that satisfies the regulators.

We do this predominantly by working in a pretty unique partnership with a variety of organisations, including SkillsActive, to develop and award qualifications for the Active Leisure, Learning and Well-being sector.

How did the chance to develop these qualifications come about?

Although coaching, through our partnership working with governing bodies of sport, is our prime area of expertise, we have recently invested in developments in the emerging area of physical education and school sport (PESS).

The original opportunity was presented to us by the Association for Physical Education (afPE). afPE provides quality assured services and resources, and valuable professional support for its members and the physical education and sport profession. Its aspiration was to work with 1st4sport to rejuvenate its unaccredited training for adults supporting learners, primarily targeted at learners working towards the now defunct 14–19 Diploma (remember those?), and develop it into an accredited qualification specifically designed for young learners interested in pursuing a career, or further learning opportunities, in the area of PESS.

As the future of the 14–19 Diploma became increasingly uncertain, we felt that the qualification could not only be used as a springboard to further opportunities in PESS, but also as a valuable piece of CPD for those already employed and/or contributing to PESS activities, such as sports leaders and coaches. As more and more coaches are being utilised by schools, we (afPE and 1st4sport) felt that developing the knowledge and skills of how coaches could apply their technical expertise in a PESS environment, to work alongside teachers to meet the physical development needs of pupils, could really help deliver afPE’s vision of high quality PE in schools. This proposal was put to SkillsActive, which, through its engagement with employers, also felt it was a great idea. Hence the 1st4sport Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Learning in Physical Education and School Sport (QCF) was created. SkillsActive duly included it in the Intermediate Apprenticeship in Activity Leadership (through creating a new ‘leadership’ pathway to that framework), making it even more pertinent and attractive to the industry.

Why were these new Level 3 qualifications developed?

Due to the rapid growth and success of the 1st4sport Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Learning in Physical Education and School Sport (QCF), employers and colleges alike were crying out for a qualification for their learners to progress to. As we began research into the development of a Level 3 with afPE, SkillsActive invited other interested AOs to work in collaboration with the Compass to develop further provision in this area to meet the needs of employers, as identified by some extensive research carried out by Compass. As our research (with afPE) came out with almost identical outcomes to that completed by Compass, it was felt that we were the best-placed AO to lead such a development. This led to the evolution of both the 1st4sport Level 3 Certificate in Supporting the Delivery of Physical Education and School Sport (QCF) and 1st4sport Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Supporting the Delivery of Physical Education and School Sport (QCF).

What do you hope the qualifications will achieve?

1st4sport Qualifications has developed these new qualifications to help raise the standards of those delivering PESS activities. More and more schools are turning to external organisations to provide sports coaches and/or leaders to support their PE programmes. Although these coaches/leaders have the technical knowledge of physical activity and sport, they don’t necessarily know how to impart it to pupils in a school sport setting. The qualifications in the 1st4sport Physical Education and School Sport Suite expand on learners’ technical knowledge of physical activity and sport, and provide them with a greater understanding of the programmes of study for physical education, national curriculum and environment in which they will be operating.

Colleges are finding the qualifications particularly attractive as they require the learner to operate and be assessed delivering PE activities in a school, adding further value to their work placement and sports programmes, and allowing their students to gain industry-recognised qualifications that are valued by employers.

Furthermore, these qualifications introduce learners to a number of roles in providing PESS, including:

  • Children’s activity professional
  • Sports coach, volunteer and leader operating in a school environment
  • Higher level teaching assistant (HLTA)
  • Teaching assistant (TA)
  • Sports development officer

Moreover, they’ve become fundamental qualifications for those looking to gain industry recognition and acknowledgement through SkillsActive’s new register for this area, the Children’s Activity Professionals Register (Capre).

Another significant breakthrough to support the emergence and professionalisation of the industry has been provided through the foresight of SkillsActive, as well as a demand from employers, with the creation of a new apprenticeship for this area – the Advanced Apprenticeship in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Physical Education and School Sport – which has recently become approved and is now available for funding (for those eligible).

We believe these qualifications could make a significant contribution to raising the standard of delivery for coaches contributing to, and supporting/working alongside teachers in, the delivery of PESS. Employers such as Fit for Sport, Evolve Education, Premier Sport, the Premier League and The FA are all excited about their development, with the latter making them an essential component for its skills coaches operating in primary schools.

How can organisations offer the qualifications?

Any organisation looking to offer these qualifications needs to become a 1st4sport recognised centre, and approved to deliver the qualification(s). You can find out more about how to do this by downloading the Centre Recognition Criteria and Qualification Approval Criteria Forms for the relevant qualifications.

For further information visit or email


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