«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
The research context My own concerns regarding primary PEITT described here are not unique. The development of primary school teachers as teachers of PE has been a focus of concern amongst professional bodies and researchers for some time. Concerns raised in the UK have included the lack of time afforded to PE during ITT and the levels of confidence and subject knowledge amongst teachers to effectively teach each activity within NCPE (DfES, 1999, see appendix 1). In 2005, the professional subject associations for PE in the UK claimed that primary PE is delivered by teachers who ‘still go into schools without adequate Initial Teacher Training to teach physical education’ (British Association of Advisers and Lecturers in PE [Baalpe], Central Council for Physical recreation [CCPR], Physical Education Association of United Kingdom [PEAUK], PE ITT Network, 2005, p. 5). The primary PE literature suggests that primary PEITT in the UK can amount to just nine hours of taught contact time (within a oneyear Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) course) and five hours for those involved with School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) (Caldecott, Warburton, & Waring, 2006a, 2006b).
In addition to the lack of time available for PE during ITT, research has highlighted a perceived lack of subject knowledge and low levels of confidence to teach the primary PE curriculum (PEAUK, 1984; Williams, 1985; Carney & Armstrong, 1996; Morgan, 1997; Clay, 1999; Warburton, 2001). Such concerns have not simply arisen since the introduction of the NC through the Education Reform Act (Department for Education [DfE], 1998). As long ago as 1969, Rains suggested that there was a lack of a common policy for the preparation of primary teachers in PE; over thirty years ago, Saunders (1975) argued that some primary teachers were personally disinterested in PE, holding a negative attitude towards the subject.
Such views have since been supported by a series of studies in the UK and in other countries (discussed in detail in chapter 2) with the literature consistently suggesting that primary ITT under-prepares trainees to teach PE, that some trainee primary teachers are negatively predisposed towards the subject and that ITT does little to break down such dispositions. PE is perceived as one of the most challenging subjects in the curriculum for primary teachers to deliver (Katene & Edmondson, 2004; Chappell, 2006) and it has been reported that a third of all primary schools are currently using external sports providers and coaches (i.e. not qualified primary teachers) to cover PE lessons (Ward, 2005). In short, despite the long held and pressing criticisms of primary PEITT, serious concerns remain and few solutions to the problem have been implemented.
This investigation took place following, during and before significant phases of educational policy development in England, affecting practices in schools, within ITT provision and in PE more specifically. For example, the National PESSCL strategy (DfES/DCMS, 2003) saw government investment of over one billion pounds in PE and school sport between 2003 and 2006; a ‘Children’s Plan’ was launched by the Department for Children, Family and Schools (DCSF, 2007) with an intent to build on interdisciplinary ways of working, whereby education, health and social service professionals contribute to the development of children and young people through a commitment to the five aims of the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda (DfES, 2003). With ‘being healthy’ the first of these five aims, there appears to have been renewed government interest and concern in the health, physical activity levels and body weight of children and young people at the time of the investigation being carried out. The time frame of this research also included significant changes to the working practices of teachers through the implementation of a national agreement designed to raise teaching standards and tackle workload issues (Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), ATL, DfES, GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEOST, PAT, SHA, TGWU, UNISON, WAG, 2003). This led to new conditions of service for teachers and a set of structured changes to the way that teaching and learning was to be managed in schools. Central to these changes was the introduction of ring-fenced planning, preparation and assessment time (known colloquially as ‘PPA time’), providing a time allocation for every teacher to be out of the classroom. This has enabled headteachers to plan staffing in a more creative and flexible fashion and in some schools this has led to the increased use of adults other than teachers (AOTTs) to teach and support learning in PE.
As a result of such changes to working practices, anecdotal concerns have been heard amongst teacher educators regarding the resulting experiences of trainees in school. Whilst supervising trainees in school, I have observed first-hand the difficulties that some trainees encountered in gaining on-going and ‘hands on’ experience in teaching and observing PE. This has appeared to be particularly problematic for those trainee teachers with least confidence to teach PE; it has seemed entirely possible for such trainees to be placed in a school where the class teacher does not teach PE as this time was used by the teacher (and consequently the trainee) for PPA activities. I was also aware that some teacher development literature has suggested a disconnect between theory and practice (Segall, 2010) and that there is potential for ‘washout’ (Zeichner & Tabachnik 1981; Etheridge, 1989; Lawson, 1989; Blankenship, Tjeerdsma & Coleman, 2009) when university based learning is not applied quickly in school contexts.
The relationship between trainee teachers and others within the professional community also appears to have a bearing on experiences during ITT. Sparkes, Templin and Schempp (1993) argue that beginning teachers’ emerging identities can be undermined by the presence of ideological differences between the teachers and their communities. In the case of the trainee teacher, ideologies of the community could include those pertaining to the training institution, the school placement context (staff, pupils, senior managers, mentors) tutors, peers, government-driven agendas and aims of the NC. Set against the trainees’ personal perceptions, dispositions, values and beliefs, such ideologies could present a problematic context for the trainee and provide a range of potentially conflicting influences on practice. With schoolbased mentoring becoming increasingly significant to the ITT process following changes to legislation governing the amount of time spent in school during ITT (see chapter 2), the influence of the class teacher or mentor in school is of particular interest to the aims of this research.
ITT provision in England has been a context of significant change over the past twenty years.
Campbell, McNamara, Furlong, Howson and Lewis (2007) describe this ever changing context as ‘turbulent’, characterised by periodic revision of government policies pertaining to ITT. The Teacher Training Agency (TTA, established in 1994) and its successor organisation, the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA, established under the Education Act of 2005) became the organisation charged with raising standards in schools by attracting able and committed recruits into teaching. The TTA/TDA has a remit of improving the quality of teacher training and induction and the mechanisms introduced to achieve this include a framework for training which centrally imposed standards for assessment of trainee teachers (see appendix 2) and a requisite model of partnership with which ITT providers must comply (see appendix 3). Schools have played an increasingly important role as training establishments in their own right; in addition to undergraduate and postgraduate courses a range of employment based routes has also emerged, including SCITT programmes and the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP). In all routes towards becoming a qualified teacher, schools and school based staff have a recognised role in supporting trainee teachers and the nature of the relationship between school based staff and trainee teachers is highly relevant to the issues under investigation in this research.
Since work on this thesis began it is apparent that, despite significant investment in PE and school sport through the PESSCL strategy (DfES/DCMS, 2003), primary PE continues to be highlighted as an area of concern. The PE professional body in England (afPE) declared, through its 2008 manifesto, that there are ‘systemic weaknesses in the system supporting physical education’ (p.2). Central to these concerns is the training of primary school teachers to teach PE, with afPE estimating that more than 40% of newly qualified primary teachers begin their careers with only 6 hours or less preparation to teach PE. The afPE manifesto
suggested that this is:
the most serious systemic weakness in the system, which means that neither young teachers nor the children they teach receive the quality of provision which they all deserve,
initial teacher training and education for physical education must be reviewed, to ensure that all primary trainees understand the importance of physical learning and physical literacy in children’s development (afPE, 2008, p. 2) AfPE went on to seek adequate preparation for all primary trainees for PE, including commitment from the agencies responsible for teacher workforce development to ensure compliance to minimum specified standards. Although such claims have been heard before, never before have they been made following such significant government investment in the subject. Despite high levels of spend and the creation of a school sport infrastructure, an effective means of training and developing primary teachers to teach PE has proved somewhat elusive. AfPE’s comments, like many of those before them, suggested structural changes to improve the ‘systemic weaknesses’ in the shape of greater subject content within ITT. The language used is centred on compliance, standardisation and a conceptualisation of PE knowledge in relation to coverage of the NCPE..
Whilst primary PE has continued to be highlighted as an area of concern, wider policy changes before, during and after the time frame of data collection have created a range of contextual factors which are highly pertinent to this thesis. A seemingly constant wave of education policy change brought about by successive governments has continued to revise provision within university providers of ITT and schools. Whether the focus at any particular time has been on raising standards in schools, standardising teachers’ work, amending the relative roles of schools and universities in the teacher education process, considering broad aspects of children’s wellbeing or on developing the curriculum, claims that primary PE is a neglected and poorly taught area of the curriculum persist. In 2011 it is very apparent that changes to education policy and practice are once again high on the agenda of the Coalition Government in England; a succession of announcements and discussion documents impacting on the work of teachers and those charged with their training and professional development has emerged since the election of the government in May 2010. These proposals include specific elements of importance to this thesis. In particular, a further heightened role for schools as providers of ITT is suggested, in addition to a proposed review of the content and purposes of the NC. A series of recent reviews and policy announcements has included The Importance of Teaching
White Paper (DfE, 2010) which:
outlines the steps necessary to enact such whole-system reform in England. It encompasses both profound structural change and rigorous attention to standards.
It includes a plan for attracting and training even better teachers. It outlines a direction of travel on the curriculum and qualifications which allows us to learn from, and outpace, the world’s best (DfE, 2010).
Following closely, a new review of the NC in England was launched in January 2011, ignoring the findings of two earlier reviews conducted under the aegis of the previous New Labour administration (The Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum (Rose, 2009); The Cambridge Primary Review (Alexander, Armstrong, Flutter, Hargreaves, Harrison, Harlen, Hartley-Brewer, Kershner, Macbeath, Mayall, Northen, Pugh, Richards & Utting, 2009)). The
current review of the NC for England was launched by the Secretary of State for Education to:
replace the current substandard curriculum with one based on the best school systems in the world and provide a world-class resource for teachers and children (DfE, 2011a).
The intention is for a new NC to be taught in schools from September 2013, significantly for this research including new Programmes of Study for English, mathematics, science, and PE.
Within the language of such statements it appears that PE is now being considered as part of the core learning experience in schools, although there is a lack of clarity within government information currently regarding what the content of programmes of study will actually be. A PE-specific response to the government’s NC review has been made by the professional community (afPE, 2011), which underlines once more the need for the development and extension of ITT, particularly at primary level.
Beyond curriculum content, the government is also focused on changing the ways in which teachers are recruited and trained. In June 2011, the DfE published a further document, ‘an improvement strategy for discussion’, titled Training our Next Generation of Outstanding
Teachers. The stated purpose of this document was to:
set out how we will make teaching an even higher status profession that attracts even more of the best graduates. It explains how we will encourage schools to work together with universities to provide the training that is best for their trainees. Finally it describes how we will make this happen while achieving best value for money (DfE, 2011b, p.2).