PE, swimming and outdoor learning

The Physical Education, Swimming and Outdoor Learning (PESOL) Team focuses on the health, safety and wellbeing of young people through a broad range of activities. There is well-established research evidence proving the positive link between healthy engagement in physical activity and improved life chances.

We believe that young people involved in our activities are more likely to engage positively with other aspects of their education and learning, and hence the PESOL team contribute to improved attainment and achievement of young people.

We work in collaboration with schools and partners in Sheffield and beyond to drive forward high quality physical education in and outside schools time, national curriculum swimming lessons and outdoor learning including day and residential visits.

Physical education

As part of the national curriculum, children are entitled to high quality physical education that inspires all children to succeed and excel in competitive sport and other physically demanding activities.

Schools should provide opportunities for children to become physically confident in a way which supports their health and fitness, with opportunities to compete in sport and other activities that build character and help to embed values such as fairness and respect.

We offer advice and guidance to schools to improve their physical education provision and share good practice around the city. We collaborate closely with partners to work towards making Sheffield the most active city by 2020.

Our aim is to help schools provide a wide range of high quality physical education opportunities for your children, and give them the knowledge and skills to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

Physical Education and Sport Premium for primary schools

Currently, primary schools receive extra funding called the PE and Sport Premium. The aim of this funding is to enable schools to make additional and sustainable improvements to the quality of PE and sport they offer your children. Schools should have a section on their website on how they are using the PE and Sport Premium funding.

We help schools by sharing good practice across the city on getting the most from the PE and Sport Premium and keep schools up to date on the latest developments from the Department of Education.

One way we do this is working with partners to help host a city wide conference for primary schools at the beginning of each school year with high profile key note speakers. This provides schools with a fantastic environment to share ideas, improve their provision and implement new activities for your children.


Swimming is a compulsory part of the national curriculum, and by the end of key stage 2, every child should have been taught to swim unaided for at least 25 metres. We coordinate swimming lessons (and transport where applicable) for most Sheffield schools and offer 18 or 36 weeks of lessons.

Our aim is to ensure that every child is a successful swimmer, whether that is a child reaching 25m who could not swim before; or an advanced swimmer learning new skills and techniques. Water safety is a key part of all our lessons with one lesson entirely dedicated to this subject.

We also have several elite athletes who have represented Great Britain assisting in some of our lessons to share their experiences and inspire your children.

One question we have been asked many times is, if parents can withdraw their child from swimming lessons. As swimming is a compulsory part of the national curriculum parents do not have the right to withdraw children from swimming lessons.

Benefits of learning to swim

Swimming is a fun activity and an important skill for life, just as reading and writing are and ultimately could lead to children saving their own or others' lives. If the chance to teach children to swim is missed, they will be deprived of opportunities to participate in:

  • family fun
  • a form of exercise with many health advantages
  • linked aquatic activities and water sports
Advanced swimming and other aquatic activities

We target year 4 pupils, but some schools buy in swimming for other year groups. We also encourage schools to continue swimming lessons after children have reached the minimum 25 meter requirement.

Our “advanced swimmer” programme offers children who are strong swimmers opportunities to try mini water polo, Rookie lifeguarding, diving and synchronised swimming too.

You can investigate evening and weekend lessons for your child in these activities using the partner links below.

Tips when children go swimming

For each lesson, your child will need to bring swimwear (as detailed below) and a towel in a waterproof bag along with any medication (asthma inhalants etc).

Children will need to wear appropriate swimwear (bikinis/shorts below the knee/cut-off jeans, underwear and heavy materials are not acceptable). If children are required to wear long sleeve tops and leggings then these must be lightweight and swim wear ie costume must be worn underneath or on top.

If your child needs to wear swimming goggles (these must be provided by you), please ask your school for a goggles permission slip prior to the first lesson. During assessment the swimming teachers may ask children to remove goggles to assess water confidence.

We have a no jewellery policy so please avoid any piercing until after all the swimming lessons or your child may miss out (taping is not acceptable as it will come off in the water).

Long hair must be tied back (boys and girls).

Outdoor learning

We run and operate Thornbridge Outdoors, which is our only outdoor centre and is located in the beautiful Peak District. Recently Learning Away has been researching into what makes a brilliant residential visit, and what the benefits are for your children.

We believe that learning outside the classroom is very important and helps give children a rounded education with essential life skills. We have therefore gained the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge for the work that we do.

Schools are able to bring their children to Thornbridge Outdoors for a day visit or a residential visit. There are many options, including indoor accommodation, staying in our Teepees or camping in tents. We focus our programmes on the schools outcomes for the visit, for example ‘to improve communication and team work’.

We have recently opened a new building called ‘Woodlands’ which has been designed to cater for groups which include those with additional needs.  It has accessible features such as a ceiling mounted hoist, a mobile hoist, a single profiling bed, an en-suite accessible shower room, an outside accessible toilet and a disabled car parking space.  This will allow school children, where our other accommodation is not suitable, to be able to come and stay over on a school residential visit.

We utilise our idyllic location, which is fantastic for walking, climbing/bouldering and cycling. We encourage schools to choose educational activities that take children around the Peak District, as we believe that every Sheffield child should have a Peak District experience during their school years.

We work with many partners in Sheffield and in the Peak District to give children the opportunity to explore the Peak District and encourage families to enjoy the National Park that is on Sheffield’s door step.

During the weekend and school holidays, the accommodation at Thornbridge Outdoors, including the new accommodation ‘Woodlands’ is available to hire by any other groups such as friends and families, organisations, church, scout groups etc.

Tips when children go on a residential trip to Thornbridge Outdoors

The weather in the Peak District can be changeable, so it is important to make sure your children have enough layers should the temperature drop. A waterproof jacket is advised, although we will provide waterproofs for certain activities, for example caving. Gloves and hats are essential in the winter months.

When staying over, we provide all bed linen, but children will have to bring their own towels and toiletries.

Educational visits guidance and advice

We provide educational visits, guidance and advice to schools, and also ensure schools have completed risk assessments for their trips. We share national best practice with schools and provide training for school staff.

Contact Physical Education, Swimming and Outdoor Learning (PESOL) Team

Thornbridge Outdoors
Great Longstone
DE45 1NY

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