Primary Schools

Understanding physical literacy: The gift of confidence and competence

Child in school learning about P.E

Physical literacy, as defined by the Primary School Physical Literacy Framework, is ‘the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding that provides children with the movement foundation for lifelong participation in physical activity.’*

 As relevant as numeracy and literacy, supporting our health and well-being as a nation from an early age, it helps each child to develop his or her skills and confidence. It’s a vital piece of the jigsaw that allows an individual to grow up with the capability to advance both mentally and physically. 

Physical Literacy Diagram


A child starts to learn to read with simple words like ‘cat’ and ‘sat’. Similarly, a child starts its physical development with movement skills such as running, jumping, throwing and balancing. As words are strung together and then read as sentences, so physical skills are then linked together to create movement and perform activities such as riding a bike or swimming. 

 For a young child, physical exercise can be exhilarating and tremendous fun. For an adult, it can increase feelings of happiness and well-being as its link to serotonin levels and the stimulation of brain pleasure centres is well-documented. How happy you are and how well you feel then have a knock-on effect on everything, including your ability to cope with difficult situations, your relationships and your learning and development in all areas. 

 Take an individual and introduce him or her to the importance of exercise from an early age, when they are still at a stage when they are open-minded and will try anything. Do this and you are giving him or her the building blocks for life.

 Make physical activity a part of day-to-day routine and a habit and you give that child the foundation to be the best that they can be, in all walks of life. Given the huge potential gain, it’s vital that children are engaged and have a variety of enjoyable opportunities that support the development of their skills and confidence, ensuring that they continue their physical, literacy journey. 

 It’s ultimately down to us all – family, teachers, play workers, health professionals, coaches, sports governing bodies and youth leaders – to play our part and enable these children to access their confidence and competence through physical literacy. Don’t wait to be asked.