Tag Archives: physical education

Lies, damned lies and statistics…

“Highland has 80% of primary schools and 90% of secondary schools meeting the Scottish Government’s target for PE. What would you do to ensure all schools in Highland meet the target by June 2014?”

This was the topic on which I had to present in a recent interview for a PE Development Officer’s post. I didn’t get it but that’s not the point. I’m not bitter, honest, just wanted to share a few ideas in the hope that some of them make it into the remit of the new post-holder.

I was recently at an Education Scotland PE event at Ratho. It was excellent, as usual the most informative and useful parts of the day came in the tea-break chats with fellow teachers and those interested in PE.

A similar statistic to the one above was shown to us in the initial briefing session, albeit as a national picture. Bearing in mind that the room was full of people who actually teach PE in schools across the country I’m sure you can imagine the derisory snorts and whispers of “never, nothing like that number” from around the room.

That, of course is not to say that the will isn’t very much there. I completed my PGCE in Primary PE about 4 years ago and wrote my dissertation based around Peter Peacock’s statement in the 2004 Report of the Physical Education Review Group:

I will ask the curriculum review group to ensure that there is sufficient flexibility in the curriculum to allow schools to accommodate the provision of at least 2 hours of good quality physical education for each child every week, and more if possible.

I mused on the theme of “what is quality physical education?” I don’t claim to have the answers and I certainly don’t know how best to get those numbers up to 100% (that’ll be why I didn’t get the job!) but I do have the following thoughts on some of the barriers to teaching PE in our schools.

Having studied the work of Prof Richard Bailey as part of my course and being a keen follower of his on Twitter, I work very much on the problem-solving approach to learning: what problem are we solving by doing/learning this (or what use is it going to be to learn/do this) so I came up with a Barriers vs Solutions theme for my presentation:

Solving them might be a bit trickier than listing them though! I lumped the first two together as one very much influences the other. What affects them? Teachers’ own school and ITE experiences I would argue: if you didn’t like/enjoy/value PE why would you be interested in it? I know that’s  a broad generalisation but it’s one I’ve certainly come across a lot in my time.

How do we address it? Firstly by getting supportive, well-trained people (teachers of PE, development officers, etc) in to run meaningful, practical CPD which doesn’t just leave one equipped with a load of “physical” resources (lesson plans, cones and balls, etc) but with “mental” resources: a sense of valuing PE, a shift in pedagogy an approach which sees PE as an opportunity to learn in other areas through the medium of Physical Education. Number Bond Orienteering anyone? Counting in fours whilst doing the slosh? (honest, tried it last week!)

We see too much “superficial” CPD – heaven knows anyone on pedagoo knows the real stuff happens in the interactions with colleagues and the sharing of ideas. PE CPD needs to reflect this and allow those who’re not comfortable with it to use their existing skills and interests to facilitate PE – you like ICT? Cool, let’s get the kids using the Wii balance board; Geography’s your thing? Excellent. TOPS Outdoors Orienteering for you sir!

For me all CPD should be about capacity building. If you leave [a CPD session] armed with resources and thinking “right, that’s me sorted” then you (and the CPD event organiser) have failed. If, on the other hand you leave with a bunch of ideas, questions as to how you might put it in place and thoughts on how you can improve then we’re getting somewhere. I’m not suggesting all CPD should be mind-blowingly pedagogically challenging stuff, but if you come to school every day and get everything right, you’re wasting your time as a wise pedagoo-er once said.

Get out and have a go. Ask the questions. Use the resources – physical and mental. There’s always someone with an idea to contribute and a huge amount of folks out there with the will to make it better.

Good luck!