Trauma-Informed PE Series 3/3: Examples of how you can implement Trauma-Informed PE in your setting

Over the last two weeks, we have released blogs on Trauma Informed PE: Relationships at the heart of Physical Education, & What is Trauma Informed PE?

We wanted to follow up by giving you examples of how you can implement Trauma Informed PE in your setting.  Neil Moggan has been roadtesting Trauma Informed PE in his secondary school since September 2022. Neil takes up the story here about how he implemented Trauma Informed PE with some of his Year 8 girls to enhance their engagement.


Post Covid, we had a group of year eight girls who were struggling with their mental health, friendships and general confidence, and it was affecting their willingness to engage in their PE lessons.

Year 8 can be a tricky year anyway for some girls’ engagement as they go through puberty and start to recognise social pressures more and this was even more evident post lockdown.

Creating psychological safety

We wanted this lesson to be the first step to re-engage the group in PE. We wanted to create a psychologically safe environment where the girls felt comfortable, and free to take part without feeling judged, under threat or worried about their performance. We also wanted to give our young people greater ownership over their PE lesson.

Learning objectives were as follows:

Head: To understand the link between physical activity and mental wellbeing and to develop our self kindness.

Hands: To take part in a range of physical activities to boost mental wellbeing.

Heart: To try our best and create a safe environment for everyone to thrive.


The first thing we did was to meet and greet our young people in an ultra positive way. We did this by using face, voice, and body to smile and welcome young people to the class. We high fived those students on entrance and made sure our voices were attuned and positive.

Introducing RISE categories

When introducing the lesson we stressed that the focus was purely on improving their mental wellbeing through being physically active rather than the girls being judged or assessed. We introduced the 4 RISE categories and how each category could benefit their mental wellbeing in a different way. (Click on this link for our blog on the 4 RISE categories)

Student ownership

We gave students a range of physical activities from the RISE programme that we could offer in our sports hall and explained to the girls that we would create a carousel of activities that students could choose to take part in at their discretion.

After giving them a range of options, they voted for a circuit of skipping, a punchbag and small sided games of football and dodgeball.

Benefits of physical activity on mental well-being

We then explained how each activity would benefit their mental wellbeing. For example, the team games of football and dodgeball would help them have that social connection we all need, which would release oxytocin and make them feel loved.

We encouraged the girls to demonstrate their leadership skills by creating their teams and making everyone feel welcome as and when they joined the activity.

With the punch bag they were able to take their very obvious stress and frustration out in a safe and controlled way.

Skipping enabled their amygdala to be calmed through repetitive activities that increased the window of tolerance and helped them feel more motivated.

Skipping also enabled them to play skipping games they used to play in primary school to trigger their play system in a caring environment.

Prioritising relationships

It was really important that we were as positive as possible with youngsters to create a classroom that was wrapped in care so that our children felt psychologically safe.

As the girls took part in the activities that most appealed to them, we would go round and talk to them to show an interest in their lives and deepen the relationship. Investing in these relationships was critical if we were going to re-engage the group over the coming weeks and months.

Developing Self Kindness

Halfway through the lesson, we stopped the girls from their activities and did some work with them around self kindness. We asked the girls how they would support a friend who had made a mistake.

We asked them what advice they would give them, and then asked them to contrast that with how they would speak to themselves with their inner voice if they had made the same mistake.

Most of the girls recognised that they would be a lot harsher on themselves than they would their friend.

We then talked about the importance of being kind to ourselves through being mindful of our inner voice, and how their relationship with themselves is the most important relationship they will have, as they are stuck with their inner voice for the rest of their lives.

Exit ticket challenge

The girls then returned to their preferred activity for the rest of the lesson. To exit the classroom we set the girls the challenge of telling us which ‘Rise’ Category of activity they had enjoyed the most, what specific activity they had completed and finally how the activity had improved their mental wellbeing.

We got some great responses from the girls showing they had taken a lot from the lesson. Keeley said ‘My favourite activity was the stress buster through using the punchbag. It helped me get all my stress and frustration out and I feel a lot calmer now.’

Sarah said ‘I preferred dodgeball which is an inclusive team game, I loved playing with my friends and we had a lot of fun. It was nice to laugh with them and exercise together.’


The lesson proved to be a great first step in re-engaging the group within Physical Education. When analysing why the lesson was such a success, the girls gave us some brilliant feedback:

They really enjoyed the freedom to choose their activities, they loved the emphasis on prioritising relationships over performance and they thrived on the supportive, non judgemental environment we created for them.

Creating a blueprint

It gave us a blueprint on how to move forward with them so that they would love being physically active for life and understand how it can benefit their mental wellbeing.

In the weeks that followed, the girls would regularly ask for this style of lesson so we incorporated more of this with additional self-care tools to help them improve their mental wellbeing and develop their engagement in Physical Education.

We can also implement a Trauma Informed PE approach outside of our normal curriculum lessons.

A Sense of Belonging – Implementing Trauma Informed PE in Interform Tournaments

Creating a sense of belonging is essential for children’s mental wellbeing because it helps them feel accepted, supported, and valued by the people around them. When children feel they belong, they are more likely to have positive self-esteem, feel safe and secure, and develop healthy relationships with others. Oxytocin is released and children feel loved.

A large group of schoolgirls wearing netball bibs in a school hall

Children who lack a sense of belonging may experience feelings of loneliness, isolation, and rejection, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. They may also struggle with social skills and have difficulty forming meaningful connections with others.

On the other hand, when children feel a sense of belonging, they are more likely to participate in social activities, engage in positive behaviors, and feel motivated to learn and grow. They are also more likely to seek out help and support when they need it, which can be crucial for their mental health.

Case Study

The Belvedere Academy is an all-ability state funded girls’ Academy secondary school in Liverpool and is part of the Girls’ Day School Trust. I am delighted to work in partnership with their team as part of our ‘RISE Up Liverpool’ Trauma Informed PE programme. Their inspirational Head of Physical Education, Kate Reynolds, talks us through their approach to ‘Trauma Informed PE’ through Interform competitions:


‘Like many schools, we run interform competitions for various different sports throughout the academic year. In the winter term this is usually netball and in the summer we do rounders. Historically, for netball, forms have selected the best 7 players to represent them and competed in a round robin. Forms are all mixed ability based on academic results, but naturally some forms have a larger number of students who have a greater sporting ability.

School girls playing netball in a school hall

This year, after adopting the RISE Up principles within our lessons, we made some small tweaks which saw engagement rocket! Instead of the usual 7 students per form, we saw over 550 students from across years 7-11 take part. It was a fantastic week enjoyed by both staff and students.


Our intent was to promote our Interform netball competition as an Inclusive Team activity to try and increase our student engagement. We really wanted to make sure that the message of “it’s the taking part that counts” really rang true with all pupils so that they felt that they belonged within our PE department and within our school.

Intended Learning Outcomes:

Head – To understand how to work together as a form to get the best out of each other’s skills set, understanding how sport can be used as a social tool to increase mental wellbeing.

Heart – To contribute to an enjoyable competition where everyone was included and no-one felt left behind.

Hands – To take part in the interform competition to the best of your ability.

A whiteboard showing sport fixtures


In order to engage more students we dropped the idea of selecting the best 7 and told forms they could select as many students from their form as they liked, but everyone selected must play in at least two of the five fixtures they would play.

The emphasis was put onto the team captains (elected by the form) to decide who was playing in each fixture allowing a number of leaders to emerge. Forms were given time during PE lessons as well as the opportunity to come and practise their skills during our lunch time enrichment slots.

This meant that engagement in the netball enrichment increased too as forms took it upon themselves to try people in different positions to analyse their strengths and weaknesses and make informed decisions as to where each player would play, as they tried to predict who they would be marking in each fixture. Playing a round robin meant that each form would play against each other in a fair contest.

School girls trying to score in netball

PE staff umpired and collected the scores but the organisation of the teams was completely down to the students. This gave them a sense of ownership over their team and their competition.


There was a friendly competitive buzz throughout school on the days running up to the event and the atmosphere on the week of the competitions was fantastic. Students created banners to show their form identity, created posters and wrote poems about the competition.

As this was an inclusive competition it captured students from across the whole school demographic; school team players, SEND students, EAL students, PP students, students whose attendance has been poor but who wanted to come to school to join in; everyone playing happily alongside each other, bonding over that sense of belonging to their form identity.

A school girl cheering while wearing a netball bib

The competition also fell at the start of Ramadan and many of our Muslim students joined in too, some choosing to break their fast in order to compete effectively which is a very personal thing to do!

Giving pupils the option to take part or not, and putting the emphasis on the development of life skills instead of simply playing to win meant that pupils felt psychologically safe when stepping up to play, knowing that they were in a fully supportive and inclusive environment. The team work, empathy, perseverance and resilience on show was amazing to see.

We will be replicating the same set up again in the future when our rounders interform takes place in the summer. Already, students have asked if we can do more competitions of the same kind in dodgeball, football, benchball and badminton; we will try and find time to do these too as we continue to use Inclusive teams and physical activity as a tool to drive up mental wellbeing within our school.’

This brings us to the end of our 3 part look at ‘Trauma Informed PE’.  We need an army of Trauma Informed PE teachers to support our young people as they recover from Adverse Childhood Experiences and I would love you to join our community so do reach out and try our taster resources if you are keen to find out more.

How we can help you

If you would like to know more, we have got a range of taster resources for you to try. We have created the ‘Enhancing Engagement Scorecard’ to help you track your progress in implementing Trauma Informed PE practice within 2 minutes.

This scorecard acts as a valuable tool for self-reflection and continuous improvement. Click on the link to take the first step and get your score.

Additionally, we offer a ‘Taster Trauma Informed PE Course’ for you to Step 1 of our full course so you can develop your understanding of what a trauma-informed approach is, what Adverse Childhood Experiences are, and how this affects children in the classroom at the moment and their life chances, based on the ACEs studies.

Click here to complete this 1 minute form to receive your personalised login.


To find out more about the ‘Trauma Informed PE’ Online teacher training course which guide you how to implement the Recovery Roadmap in your PE department in 7 simple steps visit our website here.

Please quote PEScholar10 to receive a 10% discount if you go on to purchase the course.


About the author:

‘Neil Moggan is passionate about transforming young people’s life chances and has 14 years’ experience leading Physical Education departments. 

Since lockdown Neil has helped over 100 schools across the world implement his ‘RISE Up’ early intervention mental wellbeing programme through his company Future Action. 

Neil is a trauma informed practitioner and has created & road tested the ‘Recover’ roadmap to guide PE departments how to implement trauma informed PE to transform relationships, wellbeing, engagement, behaviour & progress in the short term, and children’s life chances in the long term.

Neil is currently writing a book in collaboration with Scholarly on the decline of children’s mental health over the last 15 years and what schools can do to support young people.

Neil recently left his role as Director of Sport, Health and RSHE in a secondary school in the UK, and is now an educational consultant & a polyvagel informed executive coach specialising in mental wellbeing.’

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