«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
This unique, dual approach to learning distinguishes Physical Education from other means of introduction into physical activity, as does its serious focus on learning as an enjoyable, socially engaged and physically involved process (afPE, 2005).
Such statements have not been met with wholesale curriculum change. The efforts of afPE in the UK in particular, to advocate for the importance of the subject in primary schools and to lobby politicians have had limited impact during a time dominated by a wider focus on school sport through the PESSCL. Despite a focus on providing two hours of curriculum PE, other strands of the PESSCL and PESSYP strategies during the time frame of this research have foregrounded sport ahead of PE. This has seen the development of Specialist Sport Colleges and School Sport Partnerships in strategies led by the Youth Sport Trust (YST). The perception of PE as sport, centred on discrete activity areas appears to be the taken for granted
focus for the subject within existing curricula:
The form and focus that we refer to has become established to the point that it has attained the status of being ‘the obvious’ and for many people (most notably, members of the public and politicians, but surely also many within the profession itself), the only possible structure and orientation for the subject (Penney & Chandler, 2000).
Although some schools may now be providing greater time allocation to PE in the curriculum as a consequence of the PESSCL strategy (Ofsted, 2006; 2009), concerns remain regarding the quality of delivery and the nature of the PE curriculum itself. It has been suggested that the primary PE curriculum needs to become more inclusive, relevant and connected to lifelong development (Jess et al., 2007; Her Majesty’s Inspectorate [HMI], 2001; Casbon, 2006) and that a move away from teaching discrete activity areas is necessary. Penney and Chandler (2000) suggest a focus on thematic learning, using movement as the context rather than the outcome, a focus not on ‘learning to move’ but on ‘moving to learn’ (Crum, 1993, p. 345). A move away from an activity-based curriculum may also help to reduce concerns amongst primary teachers themselves and provide an opportunity to focus on developmentally
appropriate movement, something which may also sit with a view that:
beginning teachers need to undergo sustained study of the theoretical perspectives on child development, on human learning, on the environmental and other obstacles to human flourishing, on the conditions which maximise learning, and on the manifold ways in which learning is facilitated and managed (Kirk & Broadhead, 2007, p.12).
It can be argued in this way that teachers of primary PE need knowledge and understanding that relates specifically to children’s movement development and how learning in the physical context is best framed to promote learning in all developmental domains – a focus for professional learning that is in sharp contrast to the need to be able to teach six different activity areas proficiently. Current professional activity within the PE community, at least relating to curriculum PE in Key Stage 1, appears to be addressing some of these concerns through the development of curriculum proposals centred on child development and fundamental movement skills (Keay, 2011).
Gender and the PE curriculum Further critique of the curriculum has highlighted the ‘male-based’ nature of PE (Azzarito & Solomon, 2005), suggesting that the sport/activity structure is centred on performance, power or strength (Connell, 1995; Satina, Solmon, Cothran, Loftus. & Stockin-Davidson, 1998). As equality of opportunity has been encouraged in western society, some have also argued that girls have been perceived as a problem in PE, lacking skills and strength (Wright, 1999;
McKenzie, Marshall, Sallis & Conway, 2000; Flintoff & Scraton, 2001, 2006) when compared to boys. It is suggested that the educational environment reproduces notions of femininity and masculinity (Flintoff & Scraton, 2001; Wellard, 2009; Flintoff, 2011) and that physicality within the context of sport or physical activity has traditionally been closely associated with masculinity (Hargreaves, 2000; Hall, 1996). It has also been suggested that PEITT courses can construct unequal learning opportunities for trainees on the basis of gender (Dewar, 1987;
Flintoff, 1994; Brown & Rich, 2002; Wright 2002), although this has not been specifically explored within the primary ITT context. The literature suggests that teaching PE is directly linked with sporting ability, and in secondary schools at least, physical educators are seen as proficient in sport (Carrington & Leaman, 1986; Green & Scraton, 1998; Brown, 2005). Webb and Macdonald (2007) summarise the work of Skelton (1993), Bloot & Browne (1996), Krane (2001), Rich (2004) and Brown (2005) to describe the stereotypical view of the male PE
teacher as ‘macho’, proud and competitive, whilst the female PE teacher stereotype:
promotes vigour and athleticism but is one in which the female has potentially placed herself outside the traditional notions of femininity (p.494).
School PE presents a range of problems to some female pupils, most notably the curriculum, clothing, co-education learning, personal experiences of embarrassment, and broader social discourses around gender, ethnicity and sexuality (Satina et al., 1998; Flintoff & Scraton, 2001; Benn, 2000; Cockburn & Clarke, 2002; Williams & Bedward, 2001; Garrett, 2004;
Hunter, 2004; Enright & O’Sullivan, 2011). These researchers argue that PE is linked to specific areas of concern for young women such as developing bodies, physical appearance,
health, sexuality, freedom, independence and control and that:
secondary school PE is an integral part of the status passage to adulthood, during which the recognition of the body as physical, social, and sexual is central (Pugsley, Coffey & Delamont., 1996, p. 133).
Such concerns would appear to be highly relevant to this investigation. Given that the majority of the primary teaching workforce in England is female, the sport/activity based PE curriculum could present a range of problems to many teachers and trainees. Personal experiences in PE are thought to be important within PE teacher development (see chapter 3) and this, combined with low levels of perceived competence across six activity areas could lead to low levels of confidence to teach amongst trainees and teachers alike. Little is currently known, however, about the relative experiences of male and female trainees within the primary PEITT context or the impact of training experiences on working practices in schools.
Remodelling the primary workforce Following the introduction, implementation and development of the NC, the 1998 Green Paper (Teachers: meeting the challenge of change, DfEE, 1998) was the next in a long line of efforts to challenge the nature and working practices of the teaching profession (Furlong, 2005, p.121). The Green Paper began a level of previously unseen government intervention in education (Mahony & Hextall, 2000) as raising educational standards became a key priority of the New Labour administration. Education policy shifted from an alignment with social issues
and concern of equality to one with economic relevance:
Education…is seen not only as key to developing equality of opportunity but also to enabling the nation to prepare for the emergence of the new economy and its increased demands for skills and human capital (DfEE, 2001, paras 1.1-4).
The Government’s actions, spelled out as intentions in the Green paper were construed by some as a further attack on a ‘child-centred philosophy of teaching’ (Woods & Jeffrey, 2002) which the primary teaching profession and those involved in the education of primary teachers previously held dear. Furlong (2008) points to the broader context, suggesting the Government’s change agenda was driven by a desire to align a new vision for teacher professionalism with its own reform agenda. The Green Paper was also conceived as addressing perceived problems relating to the supply, retention and quality of new teachers, the attractiveness of teaching as a profession, the nature of professional knowledge amongst teachers and how/where teachers gained this. The focus of policy development now therefore shifted from school curricula and subject delivery to the training and development of the workforce, placing traditional, university based teacher education firmly in the firing line of policy makers. Beck (2008, p.138) argues that this new discourse, centred on standards ‘has the sinister capacity to marginalize and even silence competing ideas precisely by not entering into debate but instead tacitly presuming their irrelevance’.
The Green Paper was conceived to modernise the teaching profession, to produce a ‘world class education system’ (DfEE, 2001, p. 6) and has been held up as the key document for the New Labour Government’s focus on developing the teaching profession. Writing in the Green Paper’s foreword, the new Prime Minister, Tony Blair, set out key proposals, pointing to what he saw as the most fundamental reform of the teaching profession since the advent of state
education (Rutherford, 2003):
The Green Paper sets out the Government’s proposals to improve the teaching profession. It addresses the critical issues of training, recruitment, leadership and support for teachers in the classroom and beyond. It also describes our proposals for pay and performance. We must reward good teaching better, recognising its vital role in raising standards (p 4).
The Green Paper provided a sharp and critical focus on the working practices of teachers at the
time, stating that:
The time has long gone when isolated, unaccountable professionals made curriculum and pedagogical decisions alone without reference to the outside world (para. 13),
after decades of drift, decisive action is required to raise teaching to the front rank of professions. Only by modernisation can we equip our nation for the new century. I hope you will join us in meeting this challenge (Tony Blair, DfEE, 1998a, Foreword).
Blair’s words and the stated intentions of the Green Paper seem to ignore the evolution of education policy that had preceded the existence of New Labour. The centralisation of the curriculum, introduction of inspection regimes and development of testing in core subjects cannot be construed as strategies for allowing the teaching profession to ‘drift’. However, the stated intentions appear clearly designed as a rationale for further policy development, for even sharper focus on core subject teaching and for increasing the accountability of teachers and headteachers.
A chief concern of the Green Paper was workforce development, through which school leadership, pay and rewards structures, staff appraisals, staff training and development, the use of AOTTs and technology to support learning were afforded heightened importance. A performance management model was introduced to schools with the intention of transforming management, focusing on teacher career progression (from achieving QTS, to induction, through ‘threshold’ and award of Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) status) and improving
teacher remuneration. Mahony, Menter & Hextall (2004, p.137) explain how this system:
renders workers (teachers in our case) as units of labour to be distributed and managed, their characteristics being deemed largely irrelevant, providing that they comply with certain specifications and meet particular working criteria. This renders the structural characteristics of groups of teachers, such as ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ‘disability’ and class, marginal.
This performance management system is also said to ignore the messy ‘people’ business of teaching and to focus solely on outcomes that are publicly available for judgement and evaluation, such as attainment of pupils in national tests (Mahony, Menter & Hextall,2003).
An increased emphasis on teacher accountability through testing has left teachers wondering about an education system that no longer appears to value ‘education for its own sake’ (Webb & Vulliamy, 2006).This increasingly managerialist educational environment has led to the widespread intensification of teachers’ work, together with increased prescription of curriculum and pedagogy, resulting in what some perceive as a threat to the autonomy and professionalism of teachers. These concerns have been voiced across the world, where similar trends have been noted in North America, Australia and mainland Europe (Smyth, Dow, Hattam, Reid & Shacklock, 2000; Apple, 2004; Lindblad & Popkewitz,2004). In relation to primary school teaching, such developments have resulted in a constraining contradiction between new managerialism and a child-centred philosophy (Willmott, 2000).
Ball (2001, p.211) suggests that this new mode of regulation seen across public sector services in England ‘bites deeply…into the practice of state professionals, reforming and re-forming meaning and identity’. Reformation may surface as uncertainty and the emergence of a new kind of teaching professional, where personal identity is blended with the changing meanings of work. This may be more relevant to experienced and practising teachers rather than those embarking on new careers through training experiences in 2004. However, the backcloth of ‘performativity’, increasingly prevalent in ITT through the introduction of standards (discussed below) may contribute to the formation of beginning teacher identity and see such a blending of personal identity and professional meaning result in particular practices. It is thought by some that the outcome (i.e. the practices of teachers) may become an ‘enacted fantasy’ (Butler, 1990) and not one of improved performance. As such, it is argued that the teaching self can become alienated in response to the ‘madness’ of the requirements of performativity (Ball, 2001) and may lead to the teacher experiencing ‘personal meaningless’ (Giddens, 1991). In this way, it is possible for the expectations and aspirations of a trainee teacher to be worn away as compliance and survival become the daily objectives. As Ball