afPE Guidance on introducing Parkour/Freerunning in Schools

Looking at how schools might safely introduce Parkour/Freerunning into their programmes.

The current 2016 edition of Safe practice in Physical Education and Sport, in ‘Outdoor and Adventurous Activities’. Many teachers and students would have come across different versions of activities similar to Parkour/Freerunning, and quite clearly they are very engaging and active pastimes.  In this article the specific activity of Parkour/Freerunning is discussed, and information is provided to help teachers who might be considering how to safely introduce Parkour/Freerunning into their programme.

What is Parkour/Freerunning?

The term ‘Parkour’ originating in France in the 1980s, was adopted from 1998. It derives from the French word ‘parcours’ meaning ‘route’ or ‘course’.  Used interchangeably, “Parkour, Freerunning, Art Du Deplacement, is the non-competitive physical discipline of training to move freely over and through any terrain using only the abilities of the body, principally through running, jumping, climbing and quadrupedal movement.” Whilst there is no set list of moves those that are often practiced are:

  • running towards a wall and then jumping and pushing off the wall with a foot to reach the top of the wall
  • moving from a position hanging from a wall-top or ledge, to standing on the top or vaulting over to the other side
  • Vaulting over obstacles
  • jumping and landing accurately with the feet on small or narrow obstacles
  • jumping and catching a ledge with the hands while the feet land on the vertical surface below.
  • using a rolling motion to help absorb large impacts

What does the activity do?

In sporting terms (as opposed to describing the philosophy of Parkour/Freerunning), it aims to develop the functional strength and fitness, balance, spatial awareness, agility, coordination, precision, control and creative vision that are required to achieve the movement, whilst at the same time aiming to build confidence, determination, self-discipline and self-reliance, and a responsibility for one’s actions.

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The footage and pictures I have seen show the activity as being highly dangerous. Is it really something that we can develop safely in schools?

Many students are drawn to this activity as a result of watching exciting clips and films on social media sites.  afPE members will know that a great deal of the safe practice guidance has been developed along side the national governing bodies (NGB) of many different sports and activities. Where appropriate, the guidance overlaps and agrees, and in other cases, whilst taking the NGB rules into account, adjustments need to be made to make the guidance ‘school appropriate’. An example of this might be where an NGB could insist on the wearing of certain items of personal protective equipment (PPE) whilst competing in an event led by an NGB, whilst a school could not make the wearing of PPE compulsory for school activities, unless it chose to provide the equipment for everyone.  Parkour/Freerunning is now a recognised ‘sport’ by the UK Sports Councils (Sport England, Sport Wales, Sport Scotland, Sport Northern Ireland & UK Sport) & Parkour UK as the recognised NGB for the sport, and has worked with afPE to develop appropriate professional learning to enable Parkour to be carried out safely in schools, delivered by teachers.

I would like to see some school based Parkour/Freerunning being delivered at my school. Could I bring in a coach, and if so, what can I look for as part of my competency assessment of the coach?

Table 1 provides the current Parkour UK Model for training and development.  The coaching strand is clearly outlined showing the different stages that a Parkour/Freerunning coach can go through.  As with most activities delivered by external coaches, for Parkour/Freerunning, schools should be looking for an individual to hold at least the Parkour UK 1st4sport Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Parkour/Freerunning (QCF).

In addition to this they should be registered with the Parkour UK Parkour Professionals Register which provides proof of occupational competence & Insurances of £10m. Additionally it is recommended a Disclosure and Barring Service check / membership is supplied (NB a DBS certificate is not always required unless the coach is likely to be working alone with a group of students). Parkour UK can provide this service for their organisations/members.

As part of the on-going relationship with afPE, Parkour UK also recommend that the coach has completed the afPE 1st4sport Level 2 certificate in Supporting Learning in Physical Education and School Sport (QCF).

Does holding the qualifications outlines above, enable the coach to deliver the Parkour/Freerunning session alone?

In a curriculum setting, it is ideal for a (PE) teacher to work alongside a coach as part of their on-going professional development and as part of the process of them becoming qualified.  The teacher retains responsibility for the class the coach is working with. If therefore the teacher decides to allow the coach to work ‘at a distance’ from the them, this should only happen after a period of observation and competency assessment has been carried out. ‘At a distance’ means that the responsible teacher is easily and quickly on hand to intervene or help out should the need arise.  (See Safe Practice in PE and Sport for more information).

If as a specialist PE teacher I decide that I would like to qualify to deliver Parkour/Freerunning in school, what routes can I take?

As illustrated in Table 1 below, qualified teachers (QTS), wishing to teach Parkour during curriculum time or as an extra-curricular activity, need to undertake the Parkour UK 1st4sport Introductory CPD Award in Teaching Parkour/Freerunning (QTS). This enables them to deliver the activity indoors using appropriate equipment and/or purpose-built equipment.

Specialist PE teachers can take their training further, enabling them to deliver indoors and outdoors in curriculum (KS3+) and extra –curricular time, by undertaking the Parkour UK 1st4sport Intermediate CPD Award in Teaching Parkour/Freerunning (QTS).  This does not enable them to teach in an external or community setting.

Alternatively teachers can take the NGB coaching route by completing the Parkour UK 1st4sport Level 1 Award and Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Parkour/Freerunning (QCF).

So non-specialist PE teachers are able to access these awards?

Yes, as above, teachers with QTS can access the Parkour UK 1st4sport Introductory and/or Intermediate CPD Award in Teaching Parkour/Freerunning (QTS).  afPE is currently considering whether this award could also be undertaken by those practitioners who have completed the afPE Level 5 Certificate in Primary School Physical Education Specialism and Level 6 Award in Primary School Physical Education Subject Leadership.

What about non –QTS staff, could they safely contribute to the teaching of Parkour/Freerunning in schools?

See Table 1. Teaching Assistants/Lunchtime Supervisors who have completed the Parkour UK Sports Leaders UK Award in Leading Parkour/Freerunning, or the Parkour UK 1st 4sport Level 1 Award in Coaching Parkour/Freerunning (QCF), can assist teachers or coaches in school.

Teaching Assistants/Lunchtime supervisors who have completed the Parkour UK Sports Leaders UK Award in Leading Parkour/Freerunning, can facilitate students in the playground undertaking basic parkour related moves, as set down by the school.  This training enables them to facilitate such activity in the same way that they may be trained to facilitate other lunchtime games and activities. The award provides them with an awareness to appreciate what Parkour/Freerunning activities are acceptable in a recreational setting, (e.g. some jumping, landing) and to distinguish these from those moves which require further supervision and direction from a qualified teacher and/or coach.

What about students’ safe progression out of school?

Teachers delivering Parkour/Freerunning in school, may wish to signpost students to the other awards which are available to them in the Achieving, Leading and Instructing categories, depending on their age. (See Table 1).

Where can I access these qualifications, and how can I be sure they are being delivered by qualified staff ?

Professional development in Parkour/Freerunning should be endorsed by Parkour UK and delivered by a Parkour UK Educator, who will hold at least Level 3/4 Award in Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) or equivalent.

The higher teacher’s award – Parkour UK 1st4sport Intermediate CPD Award in Teaching Parkour/Freerunning is due to be made available in late 2017. For information about any of the professional development covered in this article contact info@parkour.uk.

Table 1

Parkour UK Awards, CPD & Qualifications

Where can Parkour/Freerunning be taught?

In most cases, where Parkour /Freerunning is taught in schools, it takes place indoors. This will also be dependent on the type of qualification that is held by the teacher/coach. As noted above a teacher would need to complete the higher level – Parkour UK 1st4sport Intermediate CPD Award in Teaching Parkour/Freerunning, in order to deliver outdoors or use a Parkour UK 1st4sport Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Parkour/Freerunning (QCF) or above qualified coach.

Whilst some existing indoor PE equipment can be used, purpose built Parkour equipment can be purchased from a number of suppliers.  Purpose built and ‘portable’ Parkour/Freerunning facilities are also available, these should comply with the BSi British Standard for Parkour Equipment BS10075:2013. Teachers should avoid improvising with existing equipment other than those items deemed suitable for this activity. Guidance on this can be sought through enquiring to Parkour UK or attendance at one of their courses, or from a qualified Parkour/Freerunning coach.

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afPE has endeavoured to keep members informed of developments within Parkour/Freerunning to ensure that those schools wishing to introduce it can do so safely.  Introducing new activities into school, always involves a considerable amount of organisation, research and a willingness to ‘give it a go’. Whilst Parkour/Freerunning is an exciting and potentially engaging activity, preparation for introducing it needs to be approached in the same way as any other activity. Identifying a need in the first place is key. Which students are interested, what target groups would it provide a good learning context for, how will it be safely developed both from the school’s point of view and for the students?  Having considered some of these points it is then time to decide what staff investment to make.  Coaches can play a part in this planning, liaising with other schools who already provide the activity is another useful method.  Hopefully this information will help with some of those decisions, and enable safe practice.

Angela James

afPE Health & Safety Officer, Oct 2014

(Updated Jan 2017)