Politics, Policy and Practice in Physical Education

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The time that the school bell rings and the children arrive, the length of the school day, the number of pupils in the classroom, their sex and social class, the quantity and quality of the resources human and physical available for teaching, the content of the curriculum, even the colour of the paint on the CQ Press Your definitive resource for politics, policy and people. Remember me? Back Institutional Login Please choose from an option shown below. Need help logging in?

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Find in this title Show Hide Page Numbers. On This Page. Copy to Clipboard. Dawn Penney and John Evans. Looks like you do not have access to this content. Click here for free trial login. Loading content Find content related to this author. A Small. As well as delighting the national governing body of sport NGB lobbyists, the centralised and prescriptive NCPE also had the support of the health advocates, who had been concerned by the poor levels of health-related fitness and worrying obesity levels Kirk, The minimal input of PE specialists permitted by the government in advising on the NCPE was in contrast to the weighty contribution received from the sport and elite level representatives and reflected government's steadfast approach; a scenario replicated in subsequent NCPE revisions Green, This claim was made despite PE's status as a foundation rather than a core subject within the National Curriculum, a situation which appeared to undermine the subject's significance.

The status of the subject was also reflected in its late implementation in the National Curriculum and subsequent scramble for the limited curriculum time and resources available Flintoff, A by-product of the government giving greater autonomy to schools, was the relinquishing of legislative power to dictate how much time was to be devoted to any National Curriculum subject.

Despite the overriding sporting ethos of PE, he was convinced that the teaching of competitive sport in schools was in worrying decline; a point later refuted by Roberts In the policy document Sport: Raising the Game , the emphasis was on expanding sport in the NCPE, through compulsory participation in competitive team games. To re-establish sport as one of the great pillars of education alongside the academic, the vocational and the moral. It should never have been relegated to be just one part of one subject in the curriculum. For complete education, we need all of those four pillars of school life to be strong Department for National Heritage - DNH, , p.

The anticipated benefits would include improved health and the acquisition of skills, ultimately leading to international sporting success. In the supposedly 'arms-length' role of the agency, the English Sports Council ESC - one by-product of the re-structuring of the GB Sports Council could largely dictate the who, what, why, where, when and how of opportunity provision and through which prioritised NGBs were obliged to both modernise and professionalise.


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This period clearly demonstrated how the government began to realise the wider value of sport, so much so that it contradicted its own New Right ideology by increasing rather decreasing State control and to adopting a proactive rather than reactive position. In addition to the dominant political dogma, the drive of the Prime Minister, the reform of the NCPE and launch of the National Lottery, the mid s witnessed the creation of a policy window with the fusion of significant interest group activity.

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When established in , the founding mission of the independent charity the YST was to "develop and implement quality sports programmes for all young people aged 4 to 18 years in school and in the community" YST, , p. It was also suggested the YST was set up with government support Green, As the government did not request, commission or provide initial funding although they were to be afforded considerable resources later , this 'support' can only be interpreted as providing no opposition. Through such initiatives as TOP Play and BT Top , the YST sought to instigate and develop predominantly sports skills through the provision of teaching materials, equipment and training for primary teachers.

Commenting on these developments, Houlihan noted that the design and substance of the NCPE was being shaped externally by the Trust through coaching templates and award schemes. Together with the involvement of NGBs and their developmental resources, sport was increasingly influencing and becoming engrained in the primary PE curriculum and school sport Flintoff, ; Green, ; Thorpe, Flintoff , Houlihan and Green and Green all noted the growing pre-eminence of the YST and this might be explained in the belief that the extent of an organisation's power correlates directly with its capacity to dictate the political programme and whose influence is a by-product of the evolution of the policy area in question King, As Grant , p.

The Coaching for Teachers scheme and the Sportsmark and Sportsmark Gold awards, introduced to denote the amount and quality of a school's PE and sport provision, measured in particular by success in engaging young people in extra-curricular competitive sport Green, The importance of expanding out-of-hours sport was also recognised by the Conservative government and supported by the CCPR and major NGBs, who were concerned at the foundation status of PE being reflected in diminishing curriculum time and influence of the PE profession Hoye et al, In recognising that such awards did raise the status of PE and its teachers within the school, Flintoff and Green also noted the value of the awards as a marketing tool to attract pupils; a clear resonance with the New Right tenets of choice and quality.

In this instance, however, it might be suggested that due to its cultural significance, it was sport rather than PE that dominated the promotion by the schools.

The changing status of school sport and physical education: explaining policy change

Additional examples of semantics were also evident in helping to determine the social status and on-going superiority and dominance of sport over PE. The definition of sport accepted by government and its national sports organisation partners since , is: "Sport means all forms of physical activity" CoE, A later example at the highest level was provided by the Communities and Local Government Department , who actually cited PE, but saw it as part of sport.

Under the leadership of Tony Blair, the re-branded New Labour - a mix of liberalism and social reformism - was swept to power in after convincing voters that it stood for progressive politics, featuring modernisation and social inclusion Bergsgard et al, ; Green, and had distanced itself from its socialist roots and the influence of the trade unions Bramham, Power would be devolved to empower individuals and organisations, with local communities assuming a leadership role to help make people's lives better.

More choice was to be provided to support those most in need and areas of under provision through a transition from equality , considered by Talbot to be restrictive, unworkable and ineffective; to social inclusion. In , Tony Blair's election manifesto viewed people as the supreme asset and pledged that quality education would be the priority to fulfil individual potential as it would for the Party's two further terms in office. Within this context, school sport and not PE was seen as underpinning the broadening of participation and for distinguishing and sustaining sporting excellence as cited in Dale, On the face of it, the manifesto re-affirmed the commitment expressed in Sport: Raising the Game to high level performance and international success, but, in stressing the importance of 'participation', there appeared to be a clear desire for sport involvement for the masses and a resonance with this theme penned in England, the sporting nation ESC, However, the 'sport for all' philosophy could be interpreted as the way of increasing the likelihood that more talented performers would emerge.

Dawn Penney

For Penney , the change in government did not see a change in attitude to PE, as it was still considered by the politicians and the media to be about developing international sporting excellence rather than education. Notwithstanding, the principal thrust of the policy document was sport for sport , with particular regard to young people and the role of schools in developing the elite-level framework Bergsgard et al, In his foreword, Tony Blair, considered by Houlihan and Green to be a key driver, made it clear that sport within education was the dominant area of interest:.

It is in school where most of us get our first chance to try sport. It is here that children discover their talent and their potential. They need the chance to try a variety of sports, to see which they enjoy most. They need high quality teaching of basic skills. They need opportunities to compete at a level in line with where their ability has developed.

They need clear pathways into taking part at club and national levels, with the right coaching and the right support at every stage DCMS, , p. This centrality of sport featured the improvement of school sports facilities and local networks of schools raising standards and disseminating good practise in PESS through increased opportunities during and after school, coaching and competition DCMS, For Houlihan and White , Flintoff and King , the success of the YST and the influence of Sue Campbell on government directives, meant that A Sporting Future for All placed sport in education at the hub of sports development policy.

Whist improving provision in terms of facilities and equipment to foster effective teaching and learning was laudable; it remained worrying, nonetheless, to acknowledge that there was no accepted industry standard as to what represented an appropriate number or quality of physical resources Green, With comparing the Conservative Government's Sport: Raising the Game and New Labour's election manifesto and A Sporting Future for All; it is apparent that policy-making is evolutionary and developmental.

It might be argued, therefore, that there is no such thing as a pure or original policy. Bloyce and Smith concur, believing that at conception all policies are issue-led, but then tend to evolve and change as a consequence of dominant human and institutional interaction and self interest. Through a process of slippage , what is eventually implemented is an adaption of the original policy Green, This final point was exemplified by further revisions to the NCPE in and Hoye et al concluded that although present day PE accommodates the twin priorities of elitism and universalism, the weighting was very much in favour of the former.

The Office for Standards in Education Ofsted - a, b also concurred that PE was sport-based and commented that this was also true of extra-curricular or out of school hours provision. They also concluded that the primary and secondary PE curriculum over- emphasized games and in so doing, teachers failed to effectively cater for pupils of varying abilities. As a result, those pupils not motivated by team games and who favoured alternative activities, were underachieving by not being able to meet their individual needs.

The NCPE was also accused of being gender biased, exemplified by the dominance of competitive team games played predominantly by boys, the teaching practices of PE staff and the lack of guidance on inclusion Penney, Regarding young people's experiences of PE, Dyson noted how PE teachers favoured an elite minority of the more competent male pupils by stressing winning through competition rather than learning and fun for everyone. Highlighting how sport had come to dominate the curriculum, Green concluded that "although PE is presented as different from sport, for many PE teachers, they appear virtually synonymous " p.

Green also noted the same was true for pupils, with PE deemed to be 'recreational' in nature rather than having an educational 'purpose' and 'value'. Of relevance here is Kirk's observation that PE is not just delineated by the written policy text, but by its practise.


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In both cases it seems, sport was ascendant. According to the substitution model Murdoch, , it can be argued that PE is sport, a particular consequence of familiar sports dominating the curriculum, a lack of clear and differentiated aims and with a successful PE programme determined by the achievement of school teams. Of course this scenario rendered meaningless the intention of PE "to promote the exploration of individual potential and that all children are given equal opportunity to participate at their own levels" Talbot, , p.

In committing to education and whole school improvement WSI , namely attendance, behaviour and achievement; New Labour introduced sport in as one of 10 subjects in the specialist schools programme DfEE, and it was through the centrality of Specialist Sport Colleges SSC that the government's PESS policy was to be managed and delivered. Developed by the YST, indicating their increased significance to government, via a contract with the education department Green, , over SSCs were eventually established across England.

Of significance also, was the creation by the ESC of the Lottery-funded county sports partnerships CSP , to take responsibility for organising sport at a sub regional level to "link national strategy and local delivery"; especially with regards coaches, clubs and volunteers Sport England, Although to some extent, each SSP was a product of its own specific situation, the conventional partnership model placed a SSC at the centre, which hosted a full time partnership development manager PDM supported by Exchequer and Lottery funding.

Up to 8 secondary schools surrounded the SSC, with each staffed by a part time school sports coordinator SSCo to synchronise developments in their own school and with the part-time primary link teachers PLT in up to five feeder primary schools Figure 1. In , competition managers were appointed to lead the development of competitive opportunities within SSPs and based on frameworks established by NGBs. Figure 1. This framework was not new. Here the needs of each pupil would be met via strategic local partnerships across primary and secondary education providing continuity and progressive opportunities both in and out of school.

An increasingly self confident youngster would be transitioned from play to more complex tasks and specific sports. Teachers and coaches would work together with NGBs to design more child-friendly versions of their sport and support would be provided to identify and develop talent; a shared responsibility for assimilating the experiences of each pupil. This would result in "A blend of school and club experiences that has a planned, combined focus - a programme negotiated by pupil, club and teacher - will avoid confusion and fragmentation of experience for the pupil" Murdoch, , p.

It should also be pointed out that the SSP framework essentially replicated the primary-secondary cluster development model suggested by Shenton , which was founded on PE teachers 'creating and managing' a coordinated pathway of transitional and progressive opportunities with community and national partners. A case of the YST being fundamentally influenced by the PE lobby as they recognised their community role would be served by this integration.

In Flintoff's view , this government interest and commitment helped raise the status of PE and sport in schools and provided the catalyst for de-marginalising PE teachers and integrating them into the mainstream of school decision-making.

Pat Vertinsky - Reconsidering The Demise of the Female Tradition in Physical Education

Although clearly taking a lead from the previous Conservative administration, New Labour had not only further elevated the status of youth sport through its commitment to precedent education and young people more generally DfES, ; DfES, , but it had also adopted a very hands-on approach by entrusting resources from across government to re-construct the means by which schools and communities coordinated a specified range of developmental initiatives. Following the 2 and 4 hour offers made previously, PSA 22 committed to "deliver a successful Olympic Games and Paralympic Games with a sustainable legacy and get more children and young people taking part in high quality PE and sport" HM Government, , p.

The planned "creation of a world-class system for PE and sport" p. The fact that 3 hours sat outside the NCPE would appear to suggest that there was no spare capacity available for its delivery in a school curriculum setting and also emphasized the importance of engaging young people in activities they are not compelled to do. Macdonald , Penney and Kirk and Macdonald also suggested that the use of non school settings was important as young people possess multiple identities and they need to learn in and across a diverse range of situations and locations.

This also reflected in part, Bernstein's view that the curriculum requires the 'school' and 'home' as 'sites of acquisition. A perplexing state of affairs considering the Chief Medical Officer's minimum recommendation of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous level physical activity per day for young people DoH, It was also recognised that further classification or market segmentation, such as by gender, ethnicity, ability, deprivation and weight; had their own implications for attitudes to sport and the extent to which individuals are motivated to take up sport-related opportunities or not Sport England, a.

With PE and sport needing to offer a differentiated service of valued opportunities to mirror the inherent diversity of young people; Steve Grainger, chief executive of the YST, stipulated that the young person had to be put at the 'heart of everything' served by a national and local alliance as cited in Hayman, Figure 2. Having succeeded Tony Blair, the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown was clearly intent on taking centre-stage in assuming his predecessor's role of policy entrepreneur for sport.

It should be remembered though, that the New Labour election manifesto of did commit to provide up to 5 hours of structured PE and sporting opportunities Labour Party, So the idea was not novel, but specifically and personally committing to bringing it about was. In spite of both sporting and social benefits being eulogised DCSF, , July 13 , it can be argued that the thrust of the offer was to expose all young people to competition. The stress on sporting competition was reinforced the following year by the DCMS in their strategy, Playing to Win - a new era for sport.

Rather than provide more of the same activities, the provision of a more diverse range of non competitive activities over additional hours would appear to have been a more logical solution to increase participation. Indeed, the emphasis on competitive sport would also seem incongruous with the Playing to Win mass participation target of 1 million more people regularly participating by The aspiration to increase and sustain participation in PE and sport through the 5HO rested on a partnership approach to provide 'quality' opportunities which were 'accessible', 'attractive', 'affordable' and 'appropriate' to young people.