«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
Each interview transcript produced was analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to produce a list of relevant themes, initially checked against each transcript and accompanying field notes and used to inform the analysis of each subsequent case. This process was repeated for each transcript across each stage of research. This on-going checking, clustering and identification of themes produced an eventual master list for the group of respondents, based on thick, descriptive data. The data were used to identify individual trainees who presented themselves as rich cases, ‘rich in the sense that a great deal can be learned from a few exemplars’ (Patton 1990, p.54). These individual cases were the subject of Stage 3 interviews and formed the basis of the typology of trainee primary teachers in relation to PE which is presented in chapter 7.
Overview of content This thesis follows a conventional format with the starting point being a review of literature that examines the underpinning themes for research. In chapter 2, the education and ITT policy and curricula changes which have been implemented in the last decade (in some cases during the time frame of this research) are explored, relating recent policy and curriculum shifts to the work of beginning primary teachers. Chapter 3 focuses on the processes through which teacher identity is thought to be linked to both the process of becoming a teacher and the context in which this takes place. This serves to contextualise the thesis with the overriding desire to understand and interpret at a practical level. Each of these chapters concludes by reviewing the implications of these themes for primary PE and ITT. This is followed by chapter 4, methodology, which presents a critical discussion of the philosophical position, research design and methods. Chapter 5 is the first results-based chapter, focused on trainee dispositions towards PE. Chapter 6 presents results pertaining to the second research question, focusing on the structural influences on trainee practice and chapter 7 introduces and develops discussion relating to a typology of trainee primary teachers in relation to PE. Finally, chapter 8 is the conclusion of the thesis, containing several recommendations for practice and concepts for further investigation.
Introduction This chapter provides an overview of pertinent education policy developments in England and discusses the implications of these for trainee primary teachers and PE. In the context of this research, the policy backcloth is highly relevant as successive Government interventions have sought to alter the education system during and since the last decade of the 20th Century (Burn, Hagger & Mutton, 2000), constituting part of ‘a dramatic transformation across the public sector’ (Mahony & Hextall, 2000, p.5). Successive Governments have intervened actively in all aspects of school life (Day, 2004) and the structure of ITT has itself become a site for political debate and struggle (Furlong, Barton, Miles, Whiting & Whitty, 2000). Such government intervention has followed debate regarding the quality of teaching and learning in primary schools, a perceived need for an increased focus on subject teaching and the need for standards to be raised. Changes to policy have directly impacted on the day to day experiences of the trainee teachers in this investigation and those around them working as teachers and teacher educators in university and in school. The impact of policy changes on the professional lives of teachers has been discussed widely in the education literature; this chapter provides an overview of these changes and the impact experienced within the profession, linking the implications of the ever-evolving policy context to the PEITT-specific research aims and questions.
It has been suggested that ‘for many teachers, the last 20 years have been years of survival, rather than development’ during a time when ‘hardly a year has passed without some reform being mooted, negotiated or imposed in the name of raising standards’ (Day, 2000, p. 101).
Such a statement underlines the constantly shifting context within which teachers work today and within which trainee teachers strive to become qualified members of the profession. The restructuring of education has been seen by some as a radical process (Woods, Jeffrey,Troman, & Boyle, 1997; Gunter 2007; Chapman & Gunter, 2009) centred on a desire to ‘standardise’ the teaching profession (Burgess, 2000). Others suggest that changes to the working conditions of teachers have negatively impacted on teacher identity (e.g. Troman, 2008). This view is relevant to this thesis which considers the relationship between trainee primary teachers, their practice and structural factors within primary PEITT.
This chapter highlights the importance of specific developments over a thirty year period, focusing largely on the raft of initiatives which followed the election of the New Labour government in 1997 and which have a direct consequence on the experiences of trainee primary teachers in the timeframe of this research. However, earlier political interventions in education are also discussed by way of providing a historical backcloth, ensuring that the impact of changes (such as the implementation of the NC) is reflected in the thesis. The policy context is important for this research because: i). policies have directly shaped the university and school-based aspects of the primary ITT experience, impacting directly on the experiences of trainees during the time phase of this research; ii). it is likely that the trainees will be aware of some changes to the teaching profession brought about by policy implementation as these may have been discussed amongst trainee teachers, their school-based mentors, peers and teacher educators; iii). the increased importance afforded to school based elements of ITT within current and emerging policy creates greater opportunity for social interaction between trainee teachers and colleagues who have taught through a succession of changes and have stories to relate. In short, this research has been conducted in full cognisance of the contextual factors that may impact on the lived experience of trainees during primary PE ITT, at a local level in university and schools, and within wider society.
Before ‘New Labour’ One of the first actions of any new government in the past twenty years has been to publish a White paper on education as a means of restructuring. Whilst ‘Education, education, education’ became a clarion call and a central part of a vision for the future as ‘New Labour’ claimed victory in the 1997 General election (Demaine, 2002), the preceding eighteen years of Conservative government were equally characterised by the development of education policy.
The literature provides ample critique of the role of the ‘Blair years’ in developing and implementing English education policy, yet it is clear that the Conservative policies of the late 1970s and 1980s were equally concerned with the ‘re-professionalisation’ (McCulloch, 2001;
Sachs, 2003a; Hipkins, Reid & Bull, 2010) or as some suggest a ‘de-professionalisation’ (Beck, 2008; Vignoles, 2010; Hyland, 2011) of teachers. Consequently, teacher education (and those operating within it) has been ‘under attack’ from politicians for some time (McCulloch,
1994) as successive governments have acted on a belief that:
teachers, and the liberal establishment that supported them, were hostile to market principles and to more traditional forms of teaching (Furlong, 2001. p.
This view, which appears to have first developed in the late 1970s, differs markedly from an earlier government stance which endorsed what are widely thought of as ‘child-centred approaches’ to teaching and learning. The Plowden Report (Central Advisory Council for Education, 1967) provided a ‘protective cocoon’ (Giddens, 1991, p.3) for teachers who believed in centring teaching on individual learning needs rather than being governed by a prescribed, subject-led curriculum. Teaching in primary schools was characterised by autonomy in which teachers were able to make informed decisions about learning and teaching based on the needs of individual children (McCulloch, 1997). This approach is also thought to have fostered a satisfactory alignment of primary teacher identity with the requisite social identity, as practices were articulated and rationalised alongside a commitment to ‘holism’ and ‘vocationalism’ (Woods & Jeffrey, 2002). Such approaches have been at odds with subsequent government education policy implemented from the 1980s onwards which has repeatedly attempted to transform the way in which teachers work (Smith, 2007) through, for example, the introduction of a NC and professional standards for teachers.
Much educational reform has been underpinned by a fundamental shift in thinking about its purposes, linked to broader political policy making. Education has moved from a position within a social policy framework to one of economic policy, conceived as the key to developing a skilled workforce and a knowledge based economy (Poulson, 2001). Primary school teachers and their earlier child-centred practices, which included integrated, enquirybased curricula, were blamed for poor pupil performance and behaviour (Department for Education and Employment [DfEE],1992) and governments looked towards subject-based curricula, an emphasis on teacher pedagogy, greater degree of formality and an increased emphasis on accountability. Such views were summarised in the so-called ‘three wise men report’ (DfES, 1992b) which suggested that there was a clear need for greater emphasis on subject teaching by specialist and ‘semi specialist’ teachers and that topic work had served to ‘fragment learning’.
Before the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1979, Jim Callaghan’s (the then Labour Prime Minister) stance on education paved the way for successive governments to utilise education policy as a strategic political tool. At this time, the teaching workforce was not centrally governed and the prevailing 1944 Education Act contained no explicit curriculum requirements (except for compulsory Religious Education). 146 independent Local Education Authorities (LEAs) were responsible for the management of schools and the practices in some became the focus of intense media interest. The events at one specific school, William Tynedale Junior School, Islington, North London, attracted significant focus. This school was variously described as pioneering with a (left-wing) workforce committed to providing working-class children with a broad educational experience; or as a failing school in which ‘trendy’ ideology took over from good teaching and blighted the educational opportunities for working-class children. As Demaine (2002) argues, the important political issues raised by the William Tyndale affair were those of ‘standards’, ‘accountability’ and ‘control of education’ and it is these broad themes that can be seen to run throughout the aims of successive education policy developments from 1988 to the present day. Interestingly, similar concerns were prevalent in most other advanced economies, suggesting that the William Tynedale affair was simply a media intensified spotlight upon ongoing government interest in controlling education in the developed world. Sachs (2003) suggests that the events at William Tynedale School led to the outrage of ordinary people, itself carrying weight in how politicians and bureaucrats responded to public anxiety about education. Newspaper reports further developed the use of emotive language to help fuel a sense of crisis. Shortly after becoming Prime Minister, Callaghan used the 1976 Ruskin speech to air ‘legitimate public concern’ and to raise alarm regarding the levels of responsibility and autonomy exercised by teachers within LEAs. Initiating ‘the great debate on education’ (Callaghan, 1976), Callaghan paved the way for the Education Reform Act of 1988, encouraging the consolidation of central government control at the expense of LEAs and the teaching profession. Callaghan, representative of ‘Old Labour’, appears therefore to have set off a chain of policy making that was embraced enthusiastically by both Conservatives and ‘New Labour’ alike. This chapter provides an overview of key policy changes following Callaghan’s speech, and discusses the potential impact on the key themes of this research.
The 1988 Education Reform Act The 1988 Education Reform Act was a key catalyst for a cultural revolution in schools (Rutherford 2003), marking the onset of an era of energetic and large-scale reform that continues to pervade all facets of education in England today (Barker, 2008). The Act, enforced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government following the Callaghan-initiated debate, granted the government over four hundred new powers in education, most critically taking control from local authorities and teachers through the introduction of the NC (DfE, 1989). The Act was based on a parallel process of centralisation and devolution (Bridges & McLaughlin, 1994) through which schools were afforded control over budgets, staffing and resources but were simultaneously bound by a centrally prescribed curriculum and new testing arrangements. Simon (1991) described a period of shock as the education world woke up to the full implications of the Act, which was closely aligned to a fast developing global orthodoxy of market competition and deregulation of labour markets (Wilkinson, 2000). The then Secretary of State for Education, Kenneth Baker, underlined the alignment of education policy to economic development by stating (at the 1991 Conservative Party Conference) that
not tolerate a moment longer the smug complacency of too many educationists, which has left our national educational performance limping along behind that of our industrial competitors (Baker, quoted in Simon 1991, p. 540).