How To Teach Fitness Classes In Schools

The government has issued new PE objectives to schools indicating that they must increase their structured PE during school time to every child by 2010. They also have to provide an additional 2 hours of out of school PE by 2014. By using real life case studies from successful instructors who are leading the field in developing regular ETM classes and strategies for schools this article explains how to present yourself as an expert, understanding all school ‘s love for acronyms and coding systems and pinpoint who to approach within schools .

Diversification has to be the buzz word in the fitness industry right now. There are so many avenues for the discerning fitness professional to go down within group fitness. These niche markets are in desperate need of the qualified Group Fitness Instructors skills, expertise and knowledge. No longer is teaching in a health club or sports centre the only option. Classes in the community, GP referrals, corporate venues, children, teens and the plus sized market are all MASSIVE opportunities and are relatively untapped areas. We need to start making significant steps towards finding solutions and creating specific programmes for these target groups.

Teaching fitness to children is not the same as teaching to adults so you will need to do a specialist teaching qualification (see the end of this article for course information) as an add onto your existing qualification. Remember you will not be insured to teach under 16’s unless you have a separate specialist qualification. You will also be required to be CRB checked but I am sure your school will be able to help you with this.

But how do you approach schools? who do you approach in schools? and how does it all work?

Liz Hindley owns a highly successful business in Preston, Lancashire called Physikidz ( After completing the CAFitness qualification Liz ( who is a mum of 3) began approaching schools with her unique ideas for getting children into exercise. “Leaping Liz” as Liz is known by the children , has developed C.A.T.S (Classroom Aerobics Training System). She identified that children at key stage level 1 and 2 would benefit from doing short simple exercise sessions every day. These sessions are taught in the classroom, without the need to get changed. Leaping Liz visits the participating schools periodically but in the meantime has designed and created all her C.A.T.S routines on a DVD which the teachers play every day for the children.

“The programme I run is operating in Preston (the UKs newest city!) and surrounding areas. I have run INSET days for teachers in Liverpool and Chorley, and spoke about my programme at a conference for SScos at the JJB Stadium in Wigan, which covered the whole of the Northwest. On the back of that and the website, I have sold C.A.T.S (Classroom-based Aerobic Training System) Dvds to schools all around the country.”

Liz is a fully qualified group fitness teacher and I asked her what motivated her to make the push into schools:

“A family friend, a local PDM, was concerned that schools in his partnership were falling short of the 2 hours structured PE that is a Government requirement for 2010, particularly at Key Stage 1. I offered to work with a school in his area to see whether there was a solution to the problem. My simple, short routines were such a hit, that other schools in the area asked me to visit. My alter ego “Leaping Liz” quickly became a local celebrity among teachers and the requests for school visits came flooding in. More than that, I found that I really enjoyed working with these little bundles of energy. I feel that I am really making a difference to the fitness levels of children in our area. They all feel inspired to tell me about their activities – swimming, judo, gymnastics, ballet – between my visits. I am also helping teachers to achieve a simple solution to the problem of fitting more PE into an already packed curriculum. No two schools are the same; no two children are the same. It is challenging, but enormous fun “ Says Liz
But how do you break into the schools system?

Liz offered to run half-hour aerobics sessions to three key stage one classes over six weeks at no cost to the school. Since going into that school, they have asked her back to work with key stage two, to work for a whole day during Health Week, to run after school sessions for the staff, to do a step taster session with Year 6 and to do a sponsored aerobics charity event. They also passed Liz’s contact details onto the primary school across the road, who booked her for six weeks, and so it continued.

Decide which age group you want to aim at to begin with. Better to approach a school and offer to teach Junior Yoga for 3 weeks in half hour sessions to Key Stage one, than to try to offer all your skills to the whole school. It makes you look more professional, and once you are in the school, they inevitably want you to try different things with different groups. Getting your foot in the door is the number one aim.

Getting into schools can be quite challenging. It is not a question of just writing to the head of PE or Head Teacher you need to understand how the school framework operates when using outside Instructors.

Caroline Oliver is a fully qualified PE teacher and is Exercise to Music /Fitness Pilates trained. She runs a website called Caroline is also a School Sports Coordinator who along with the schools Professional Development Manager are the key people you need to contact if you are looking for work within schools. But what is a SSCO and a PDM. Caroline explains who they are and how these people can help you in your quest to teach in the school system.

PDM – Partnership Development Manager – your most important contact. The PDM looks after a cluster of secondary schools and primary schools in the area. They are based usually within one of the secondary schools, this role is to co-ordinate all the partnership schools and get the structured PE time up to 2 hours in every school, which is a Government target for 2010. They have a pot of centralized money which is designated for PE.

You can find your local PDMs contact by doing a search on GOOGLE. Your local authority will have these details on a website or contact Youth Sport Trust in your region
SSCo – School Sports Co-ordinator. This is a role in Secondary School, and is where a PE teacher looks after 6 or so primary feeder schools. The SSco also has access to additional PE designated funds. Contact your local secondary schools to get the contact details of the SSco.

“Teachers are buried under mountains of paperwork and are very busy so an email to the SSCO and the PDM would be your first port of call. Introduce yourself and explain what you can offer the school, your qualifications and availability. Offer to pop in for a chat and discuss your ideas”

I emailed all the PDMs in my area offering my Street Dance Programme and Fitness Pilates for teenage girls. It took a few weeks for the PDMs to get back to me so by this time I contacted the SSCos in each school via email. I also let all my local community classes members know that I was aiming to offer classes in school, as many of my regular’s have children in schools are class room assistants and many pupils attend my evening classes so they helped to spread the word. I now teach Street Dance in 3 schools during PE Lessons and run 2 afterschool clubs. Once you get into one school word spreads like wildfire! My phone now rings constantly with other schools wanting to offer the sessions.
Donna Podesta of White Feathers Fitness has also been making headway within teaching in schools.

“I am in my 3rd year of running the Dance Club at my local High School and last year decided to take my video camera into the class to film the dance we had been working on. I then made this into a DVD (inspiration from [ and passed it on to the SSco at the school. I only really did this to show them how well the students were doing and the progress they had made with dance. Lucky for me he passed this on to the PDM for my area and I now have a contract, funded by the lottery to deliver a KS1 Dance Development Programme to 31 Primary Schools in my area. I have 2 girls working for my company now ‘White Feather Fitness & Inch Loss’ as I can’t deliver all the dance classes myself, we have just finished our first week and the children were so enthusiastic and excited they have been a pleasure to teach. Dance is such a fun way for children to become more active and improve balance, co-ordination and build confidence. Hopefully this positive introduction to exercise for these little ones will encourage them to continue to be active in later years” says Donna Podesta (
By providing children and teens with safe, effective and FUN ETM classes we can encourage a lifelong habit of exercise and show the next generation the joys of exercising together in a group with friends to music. By forging partnerships with schools and the local community we can make a difference to the health of children and also provide ourselves with a rewarding way to take our services forward in new directions.