Why public Primary schools are desperate for specialised PE teachers March 20, 2011Posted by Editor21C in Education Policy and Politics, Primary Education.
Tags: curriculum, health and physical education, sports education
from Christina Curry
In her first post, Christina Curry emphasises the importance of physical education for childrens’ health and the difficulties that Primary school teachers often face in teaching this curriculum area. She argues that the provision of specialist PE teachers in these schools offers a solution to this problem.
In a society that is facing serious health issues, the importance of physical education (PE) in our Public primary schools is often neglected.
Children need the value of lifelong physical activity to be instilled in them from a young age. In some cases this is achieved through family, but more often it relies on the school to ensure PE is embedded in their lives and that the children’s experiences with PE are positive and worthwhile.
Physical education is mandated to make up 6-10% of curriculum time, but this time allocation is rarely met. Research has uncovered a range of barriers which impact on the amount and quality of PE and sporting programs within primary schools. These barriers exist mainly because the delivery of PE usually relies on classroom teachers, who already have many other pressures placed upon them. With the introduction of the My School website, a heavy emphasis has been placed on improving numeracy and literacy, and this pressure will continue to intensify as teachers strive to meet the needs of the new National curriculum. With this mounting pressure, it is common for a lesser focus to be placed on PE. Researchers have found that Primary teachers often omit the mandatory PE hours from their week as a result of feeling pressured by the extent of the curriculum and their lack of experience and ability to teach the practical component of the PDHPE syllabus. A specialist PE teacher would be able to ensure that the importance of PE is not overwhelmed by these other emphases.
In a recent study of primary teachers, it was found that many were unable to fit in the mandatory hours across all subject areas, with most participants admitting that PE was the first to suffer (Morgan & Hansen, 2008:511). There is a range of other factors impacting on our teachers and include their lack of confidence to teach PE, a lack of time, poor facilities, inadequate resources and low levels of interest in PE in general. The limited sporting resources available in primary schools, coupled with the lack of expertise to develop and execute lessons, continue to be an ongoing concern. On average, primary teachers complete about 10 hours of PE training in their initial teacher training. Many teachers are relying on their own school experiences with PE and sport, hence their own teaching of PE is a reflection of their memories, both good and bad, rather than from the knowledge gained in professional pre-service training (Carney & Chedzoy, 1998; Morgan & Bourke, 2008). Specialised PE teachers complete four years of training to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to provide our children with quality PE.
Teachers have often struggled with the concepts of the traditional PE approach which is very skill based. The lack of confidence they feel in teaching skills and their feelings of inadequacy with their own physical prowess impact on their ability to provide quality teaching in this area. However, with the introduction of contemporary approaches to teaching in PE, such as Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) and Game Sense (GS), we now have an approach which is more enjoyable for both teachers and students and one that meets the standards of the quality teaching and learning framework. Specialised PE teachers are confident and passionate about PE and continue to stay informed of new trends as they only need to focus on this one speciality area.
When considering cost implications, a specialised PE teacher could be shared among 2-3 schools over the week, as one hour per week of PE is sufficient for each K-6 class.
It is imperative that our children are encouraged to participate in physical activity, and that these experiences lead to a lifelong involvement in physical activity. Instilling positive experiences through physical education in primary schools would contribute to reducing many of the health issues currently faced in our society.
Surely we are justified in providing quality education in PE through the use of specialised PE teachers.
References: Carney, C., & Chedzoy, S. (1998). Primary Student Teacher Prior Experiences and Their Relationship to Estimated Competence to Teach the National Curriculum for Physical Education. Sport, Education and Society, 3(1), 19 – 36. Morgan, P. J., & Hansen, V. (2008). Classroom teachers’ perceptions of the impact of barriers to teaching physical education on the quality of physical education programs. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 79(4), 506 -16. Morgan, P., & Bourke, S. (2008). Non-specialist teachers’ confidence to teach PE: the nature and influence of personal school experiences in PE. Physical Education & Sport Pedagogy, 13(1), 1 – 29.
Christina Curry is a Lecturer in Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She teaches and researches in PDHPE curriculum and pedagogy in both primary and secondary school settings.