Objectives: To explore pupils' and teachers' experiences of physical education (PE). Study design: A qualitative investigation employing semistructured interviews. Self Determination Theory was used as a guiding theory and Template Analysis was used to analyse the data. Setting: A secondary school in the North East of England. Participants: 14 pupils (aged 13 and 14, boys and girls) with a range of self-perceived competencies regarding PE and four PE teachers of the pupils (3 male, 1 female). Primary and secondary outcomes: (1) Attitudes and perceptions of PE pupils regarding their experiences of compulsory school PE lessons. (2) PE teachers' experiences of teaching PE. Results: Key results from pupils and teachers suggest pupils enjoy participation in PE when they feel competent, in control and supported by others. Feeling competent depended on (1) the activity within PE and (2) the pupils perceived physical capabilities/aptitude. Feeling in control related to (1) having a choice of activities, (2) being able to set exertion levels and (3) control over clothes worn while taking part. Relationships within pupil groups and between pupils and teachers were perceived as important. Teachers could positively influence their pupils' enjoyment by understanding and supporting their personal goals, as opposed to dictating and controlling what they did and for how long, and by promoting a non-threatening atmosphere between pupils. Conclusions: Rising obesity levels and concerns over the fitness of children and young people has returned the focus of PE to its potential as a vehicle for promoting health. This study suggests schools and PE teachers in particular can positively influence the PE experience of both boys and girls by providing more choice of activities and letting pupils make their own decisions based on their personal needs.