Physical Education (PE)

PE is a compulsory subject under the National Curriculum at all key stages; National Curriculum programmes of study outline what should be taught at each key stage. Local authority-maintained schools are required to follow the National Curriculum; academies and free schools do not have to follow it but are required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum that promotes the physical development of pupils. The national curriculum details the competencies that pupils are expected to develop in each key stage but does not set out compulsory sports and activities that schools must teach (with the exceptions of swimming and dance).

The activity content for GCSE and A-Level PE was last revised in September 2019, and does not currently include self-defence. Explaining a previous revision carried out to the list, the then-Minister Robert Goodwill Minister  in 2017 said that “as part of these revisions, the activity list was reviewed to ensure that all activities could be assessed reliably, were of comparable demand amongst pupils, and were manageable for schools to assess. The inclusion or non-inclusion of sports does not represent a view on the legitimacy or value of the activity” (PQ 109945, 31 October 2017).   

In 2019 Sport England published the second set of data from its Active Lives Children and Young People Survey. The report summarised the activity levels of 5-16 year olds in England in the 2018-19 academic year. However, it does not include data on the take up of self-defence within schools.

News Articles & Reports

Ellie Gould: Murdered Girl’s Friends Call for Self-Defence Lessons, BBC News, 3 February 2020

Primary School Students Getting Self-Defence Classes for Knife Attacks, The Telegraph, 3 November 2019

London Schools Teach Self-Defence and First Aid to Protect Pupils from Knife Crime, The Independent, 2 December 2018

Self-Defence Lessons for Girls Should be on the Curriculum, says Teacher, Times Education Supplement, 7 August 2014

Corinna Seith and Liz Kelly, Achievements Against the Grain: Self-Defence Training for Women and Girls in Europe, London Metropolitan University, 2003, esp. sections 3.1.2-3.1.4


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