«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
The creation of the TTA in 1994 was designed to further advance the Government’s aim of improving the quality of teacher training whilst reducing the influence and autonomy of higher education tutors. Assuming most of CATE’s duties, the TTA took charge of the supply and recruitment of teachers, the funding of teacher education in England (not Wales) and the accreditation of courses. This separated university funding for teacher training from that of other higher education provision and required universities and other colleges to bid for TTA funding alongside school based training providers. The TTA also linked funding to quality, whilst concomitantly increasing the level of control over the structure and content of ITT courses.
The 1992 and 1993 circulars contained a list of competences that all trainee teachers were required to address. They were intended to lead to breadth and balance within training courses through encouraging an interplay between practice and ‘reflection’ (Schon, 1987) which was deemed central to effective performance and which was encouraged within many HE institutions’ models of teacher education (Burgess, 2000). This focus changed, however, when the TTA began a re-conceptualisation of the competences to ‘standards’ as required in Circular 10/97 (DfEE, 1997) and later further developed in Circular 4/98 (DfEE, 1998). The importance of these standards in ensuring that the government (via the TTA) controlled entry
to the teaching profession was made clear:
Successful completion of a course or programme of initial teacher training, including employment based provision, must require the trainee to achieve all these standards. All courses must involve the assessment of all trainees to make sure they meet all the standards specified (DfEE, 1997, p. 7, emphasis in original).
Some (e.g. Burgess, 2000) have seen a shift in language being used to describe teacher education (now ‘training’) at this time as significant, a reflection of the government view of education’s place within the market economy. Teacher education became teacher training;
students became trainees; the curriculum was expressed as a set of standards for Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) (appendix 2), subject knowledge became content; training institutions were increasingly referred to as providers. Such changed terms created distance between educational programmes in universities which had previously encouraged an approach to teacher education based upon reflective practice and the prescribed routes which were now based on training and the assessment of standards. Whilst not agreeing with the use of ‘training’ in place of ‘education’, I have chosen to reflect the use of language in prevailing policy frameworks throughout this thesis, referring to the terms in present use.
The Government’s efforts to gain control over ITT were also manifest within a NC for ITT (set out in Circular 10/97 (DfEE, 1997) and subsequently in Circular 4/98 (DfEE, 1998) which was welcomed by those who saw the complexity of new partnership training arrangements as problematic (Reid, Constable & Griffiths, 1994). The ITT curriculum included separate guidelines for primary and secondary provision, variations according to the age phase being taught, inclusion of specialist subject knowledge in the upper primary age phase and specific guidance relating to provision in Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Whilst this documentation was complex and multifaceted, it was also required to be read in conjunction with newly introduced subject specific guidance provided by the National Literacy and National Numeracy strategies (DfEE, 1997 and 1999). Burgess (2000) points to the sheer volume of guidance notes received by providers of primary ITT at this time, saying that ‘death by paper was to become a reality for some providers’ (p. 410). Concerns of this nature, together with worries about breadth and balance of the curriculum were also raised by university providers of ITT (University Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) ITE committee, January 2000). It was felt that there was an undue weighting towards NC core subjects (English, Maths and Science) and a lack of coverage of Foundation Subjects. As a consequence of these concerns, the original NC for ITT was abandoned by the DfES in 2002, to be replaced by a list of teaching standards through which trainee teachers demonstrate a range of competences in order to achieve QTS.
The Standards, set out in Qualifying to teach: professional standards and requirements for initial teacher training (DfES, 2002) formed the legal requirements for all ITT programmes, whether based in universities or in schools. The 2002 version of standards set out in Qualifying to Teach (see appendix 2) are those to which the trainee teachers at the centre of this investigation are aligned (the data collection took place between 2004 and 2007). The achievement of the standards represents the minimum legal requirement of a trainee’s demonstrable knowledge and understanding in order to become a qualified teacher. The standards are grouped in three areas, namely ‘professional values and practice’, ‘knowledge and understanding’ and ‘teaching’. Of clear relevance to this investigation are those standards which place PE within the wider context of general teacher attributes. For example, it should
be noted that teachers must:
have a secure knowledge and understanding of the subjects they are trained to teach…For Key Stage 1 and/or 2, they know and understand the curriculum for each of the National Curriculum core subjects, and the frameworks, methods and expectations set out in the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies. They
have sufficient understanding of a range of work across the following subjects:
– history or geography – physical education – ICT – art and design or design and technology – performing arts, and – religious education to be able to teach them in the age range for which they are trained, with advice from an experienced colleague where necessary (Standard 2.1a and 2.1b, DfES, 2002, my italics).
The need to demonstrate ‘sufficient’ knowledge and understanding in PE (and other, non-core subjects) is evident within the standards, yet is less significant than the requirements relating to core subjects and the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies. This prioritising of subjects is further emphasised within the final sentence of this standard which creates scope for trainees to qualify as teachers without a level of knowledge and understanding in PE that would enable efficient autonomous teaching of the subject. This is reinforced further in
standard 3.3.2 which states that:
those qualifying to teach pupils in Key Stage 1 and/or 2 teach the core subjects (English, including the National Literacy Strategy, mathematics through the National Numeracy Strategy, and science) competently and independently. They also teach, for either Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2, a range of work across the
– history or geography – physical education – ICT – art and design or design and technology, and – performing arts independently, with advice from an experienced colleague where appropriate (Standard 3.3.2, DfES, 2002).
It should be noted that since this investigation was carried out, further revisions to the standards and expectations on ITT providers have been debated and implemented. A revised set of standards (TDA, 2007) is currently in place which responded to proposals from the TDA to streamline guidance and to link standards expected of newly qualified teachers to those expected of teachers progressing through ‘core’, ‘post threshold’, ‘excellent teacher’ and ‘AST’ status. Most recently, the ‘Importance of Teaching’ White Paper (DfE, 2010) has paved the way for further developments in ITT, not least the proposal for schools (and not universities) to become providers of ITT. The Paper proposes an increase in school based ITT, greater accountability for teachers in relation to pupils’ learning outcomes and the introduction of a new national curriculum. If implemented, it is almost certain that further revisions to standards will be made, both for those in the initial stages of training and for more experienced teachers progressing through their careers.
The nature and impact of the standards for QTS have been criticised. Edwards (2002) suggests that meeting the standards does not necessarily ensure that trainee teachers can work as professional decision makers able to respond effectively to pupils as learners. McNess, Broadfoot and Osborn (2003) highlight the tension between the performance-oriented management of teachers and their role as pastoral carers of pupils, whilst Wilson (2005) suggests that a crowded and sometimes contradictory policy agenda creates competing demands on trainee teachers as they arrive for school experiences in their partnership schools.
The ‘standards context’ of ITT has also raised a number of implications for primary PE. It has been claimed that the quantity and quality of some primary PE ITT in England is a ‘national disgrace’ (Talbot, 2007) with contact time during primary PE ITT amounting to just nine hours (within a one-year PGCE) course and five hours for those involved with SCITTs (Caldecott et al., 2006a, 2006b) at some training institutions. Whilst it is necessary to look at the overall process rather than simply time allocation for the subject, it would appear that (although this may not detract from trainees’ ability to demonstrate standards have been met) this would not allow trainee teachers the necessary breadth of experience and learning to become confident and knowledgeable teachers of PE.
In January 2005, the ‘declaration from the National Summit on Physical Education’ endorsed
the CCPR’s challenge to the government to:
ensure that trainee teachers for primary schools receive adequate preparation in PE during their ITT for them to become confident, competent and committed to teach the PE National Curriculum (Baalpe, CCPR, PEAUK, PE ITT Network, 2005: 5).
Interestingly, the time that is sought to achieve this is specified as thirty hours, half the time allocation demanded by professional bodies two decades previously (PEA, 1987;
CCPR/National Association of Headteachers [NAHT], 1992). The rationale behind this time request, or an explanation as to why this is now less than previously claimed was lacking. In whatever way the allotted time for preparation in PE is used during ITT, it is difficult to cater for a diverse range of training needs for all trainees within a time constrained model which commonly includes only one compulsory taught course in PE. As Morgan and Bourke (2004,
2005) suggest, substantial issues in both university courses and primary schools are the ‘crowded curriculum’ and that generalist class teachers may lack confidence or knowledge in many other subject areas too.
Some primary trainees already receive more PE during ITT than others training through different routes or with different providers. For example, undergraduate trainees may be able to revisit and consider PE in university and in school on more occasions than colleagues who train during a one year PGCE course. School based trainees may be able to access more PE in the school context than those studying in university-led programmes. Some providers of ITT choose, through local course design, to include greater focus on foundation subjects than others and may also include additional primary PE study, either in the form of elective modules or in selected specialist study throughout the course. Contact time within PEITT courses is therefore not the only important factor and any attempt to improve practice should attempt to account for the wider picture, including reference to school based experiences, assessment opportunities and reflection in addition to contact time in lectures. The amount of time where trainees work with an academic tutor or school based mentor in PE during ITT therefore varies, although little has been done to map the breadth of provision in any detail or understand whether time allocation makes any difference to quality of provision or ensuing practice. Little is known about approaches to teaching PE during ITT across the UK in this respect, and significant questions remain unanswered regarding pedagogical methods within university faculties, or supervisory or mentoring strategies evident during school placements.
It has been suggested that university-based courses do not provide sufficient opportunities for trainees to investigate and analyse their personal biographies, values, beliefs or embodied practices, thought to be a particularly important exercise where prior experiences provide primary trainees with negative perceptions of the subject (highlighted by Howarth, 1987;
Allison, Pissanos & Sakola, 1990; Garrett & Wrench, 2007). The importance of reflection within teacher professional development is discussed in chapter 3 and it is thought that reflection on and in PE specific practice is lacking as a consequence of the paucity of time afforded to the subject. It has also been suggested that the marginalised status with low levels of curriculum time for PE seen in primary schools has been mirrored within ITT programmes (Morgan & Bourke, 2005; Caldecott et al., 2006a; 2006b; Harris, Cale & Musson, 2011); in essence, the enhanced status of some subjects (such as Maths and English) has seen markedly increased allocation of teaching time throughout the ITT process and inflated the importance on trainees’ teaching of these subjects during assessed school-based practices. The schoolbased context of ITT is also pertinent when considering the extent to which the development of primary trainees as teachers of PE is a specific focus within mentoring structures and systems. School based experiences constitute what many researchers agree to be a crucial element of the primary ITT process, yet surprisingly little is known about subject specific mentoring in this context. Most researchers view the relationship between mentors and trainee teachers as complex (Edwards & Collison, 1996; Malderez & Bodoczky,1999) not least placing additional administrative and planning burdens on the teacher-mentor. Maderez et al.
(2007) suggest that there is a considerable amount of variation in mentors’ understanding of their role and a need for more effective development opportunities.