«LEARNING TO TEACH PHYSICAL EDUCATION IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS: THE INFLUENCE OF DISPOSITIONS AND EXTERNAL STRUCTURES ON PRACTICE by Ian Pickup, BA (QTS) A ...»
this tension, this structural ‘schizophrenia’ and the potential for inauthenticity and meaningless is increasingly an everyday experience for us all. The activities of the technical intelligentsia drive performativity into the day to day practices of teachers and into the social relations between the teachers (2001, p. 214).
By attempting to act in such a way that ensures compliance with centrally imposed standards, trainee teachers may, then, engage in a form of representation, fabrication, judgement or comparison. In doing so, a vocational commitment to service may replace professional judgement and an element of cynical compliance may appear. Through an adherence to conformity in light of meeting the QTS standards, trainee teachers may engage in what Ball (ibid.) terms ‘an indexing, a tabularising of the self,’ generating new ways of working and behaving. This context is highly relevant to primary PEITT and raises questions regarding the extent to which the ITT structures and processes (including policies and initiatives) have a bearing on trainee teacher development.
The workforce remodelling agenda has been seen as part of a wider agenda for improving the efficiency, effectiveness and performance of public sector services (Ozga, 1995, 2002) and an attempt to address concerns regarding pay and conditions amongst the teaching workforce (Pricewaterhouse Coopers, 2001). The latter concerns were addressed through a national agreement (in England) which was implemented in three annual phases from September 2003 to September 2005. Teachers were provided with more flexible time by removing administrative tasks from their conditions of service (for example, photocopying, creating wall displays and collecting lunch monies) and instigating a guaranteed 10% of non-teaching time per week to plan, prepare and assess children’s work (known as ‘PPA time’). The work no longer covered by teachers was redistributed to administrators and, more controversially, teaching assistants could be asked to help cover classes (Hammersley-Fletcher & Adnett, 2009).
The remodelling of the primary teaching workforce has enabled head teachers to manage their staff more flexibly, allowing PE to be delivered by people other than the class teacher where deemed relevant. Faced with a scenario in which assessment and planning in literacy and numeracy are the key drivers for personal, professional and school success, it is perhaps inevitable that some teachers will decide that teaching PE is not particularly a high priority.
Coupled with a lack of (or negative) personal experiences, low levels of confidence or subject knowledge, it is unsurprising that some teachers consider that PE is best taught by specialist others (Morgan & Bourke, 2004, 2008), and that some headteachers agree. Whilst a focus on teaching and testing maths and English has dominated the curriculum, headteachers have been presented with an opportunity to enable the least confident teachers to avoid teaching the subject. The use of PPA time to employ visiting ‘specialists’ appears to have grown in recent years, although little is known about the actual extent to which this practice is evident, the impact of this on the quality of teaching and learning, or the effect of this on experiences of
trainee primary teachers in the school setting. Ofsted (2004) state that:
In the best schools, teachers work closely with coaches, volunteers and other visiting teachers to ensure consistency in their approach and to make sure that learning is achieved. In too many schools, however, where adults other than teachers are contributing to provision, too little is known about the impact of this provision on learning (p.10) The number of AOTTs working in primary PE has increased dramatically (Lavin, Swindlehurst & Foster, 2008), partly as a consequence of the PESSCL two hour per week target, but largely as an outcome of workforce remodelling. In 2004, the first year of this investigation, it was estimated that 138,000 individuals delivering ‘sports sessions’ within primary schools were not qualified teachers (Sports Coach UK, 2004). Whereas many AOTTs have traditionally been employed to contribute to extracurricular provision, there appears to be an escalating trend towards the employment of coaches to deliver PE lessons (Blair & Capel 2008a, 2008b; Griggs, 2010). The assumption here is that such curriculum input takes place during class teachers’ PPA time, potentially removing the class teacher from a requirement to teach PE and replacing this member of staff with a non-qualified teacher. Although guidance has been issued by professional associations in this regard, there is a dearth of research regarding this phenomenon, particularly in respect to the impact on children’s learning and the quality of experiences in PE. Furthermore, little is known regarding the impact of this both during ITT and on the experiences of trainee teachers.
As Hunter (2006) suggests, the question of who teaches primary PE has a bearing on content and ‘pedagogical possibilities’ (p. 587), impacting directly on children’s daily experiences. It is conceivable that the issues surrounding subject status discussed here are partly related to teacher attitudes, values and beliefs whereby a confident and knowledgeable teacher would be less likely to prioritise other subjects over PE, allow for marginalisation to take place (Blackburn, 2001) or abdicate responsibility for PE to a non-qualified teacher. However, the constraining nature of the reforms highlighted here, particularly those centred on testing, accountability and curriculum, appear hard to resist, even where the same government is simultaneously encouraging (but not testing in the same way or specifying daily requirements as in maths and English) the teaching of PE.
As the level of preparedness of primary class teachers to teach PE has been questioned, some (Saunders, 1975; Severs, 1995; Revell, 2000; Blackburn, 2001) have looked at the notion of specialist PE teachers for primary schools as a viable solution. However, this has not been examined in a way which asks who such specialists would be and what training they would receive, let alone how schools and their curriculum would be managed or funded to enable such a development. Given the concerns raised earlier regarding the nature of the curriculum and stereotypical views of PE teachers, primary PE subject specialism should be addressed with great care. Over twenty years ago, Alexander (1992) considered broad possibilities for
the primary profession and suggested that practitioners held a:
sense that the generalist model of primary school staffing has reached its limits:
the alternatives are neither clear not proven. Certainly it would be a grave mistake to replace one monolithic model by another (p. 205).
Such concerns have been further highlighted through a reforming of ITT itself which, combined with the policy developments discussed here, have served to impact on trainee primary teacher experiences in PE.
The reform of Initial Teacher Training The policy developments detailed earlier have emanated from a government desire to develop a ‘new professionalism’ in education (Furlong, 2005, p. 120) and are seen as part of a long term shift from teaching as a profession characterised by autonomy to one that is managed, streamlined and networked. Increased government control over the teaching profession has, however been borne out not only in schools through curricula and strategy development. ITT has also become a significant area of government intervention, moving from ‘being a relative backwater in terms of educational policy, to a position of key strategic significance’ (Furlong, 2001, p.121). In attempting to directly influence the education system, successive governments have placed ITT under increasing central control and attached escalating importance to the development of practical teaching skills at the expense of educational theory (Burnett, 2006).
The modern development of government policy in relation to ITT can be traced to a 1983 White Paper, Teaching Quality (DES, 1983) which described how teacher training courses would be opened up to the ‘realities’ of teaching in schools. Those in higher education, with a focus on theory and critique, were associated with more traditional forms of professionalism, prioritising individual knowledge, autonomy and responsibility (Hoyle & John, 1995). To gain control of the teaching workforce, the government developed a more practically based form of professional preparation, with an emphasis on training rather than education. Universities were originally involved in the training and professional development of teachers for a variety of reasons; a role dating back to the creation of university centred training departments in the late 19th Century. The rationale for such involvement had been based on the perceived importance of the intellectual development of teachers, an acknowledgement that the improvement of teaching should be based on research and an assumption that education was concerned with developing critical capacities (Pring, 1999). This rationale has been increasingly criticised by those who see teaching as a practical profession, best learned in the real world contexts of schools. There has been a wider challenge to the central role and power of universities as places where knowledge is gained. Pring (1999) suggested that the value of Higher Education in teacher education could no longer be taken for granted as new possibilities and partnerships between alternative sources of learning had been encouraged.
The reform of ITT began with the establishment of the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (CATE) through Circular 3/84 (DES, 1984). CATE had the responsibility for overseeing Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in England and Wales on behalf of the Secretary for State for Education. CATE began to exert control over teacher training by establishing a requirement for teacher educators to undertake ‘recent and relevant’ teaching experience in schools, by formally setting the length of teacher training courses and the number of weeks trainees must spend in schools, for the first time marking the Secretary for State’s right to intervene in the content and structure of ITT. Further increased central control of ITT was announced in Circular 24/89 (DES, 1989), establishing committees to oversee all teacher training courses and to ensure that specified criteria were addressed satisfactorily. This circular defined topics that were to be addressed within an emerging national curriculum for ITT which were expressed as ‘outputs’, listed as things student teachers had to know and be able to do. The beginning of a NC for ITT was evident in ITT programmes which had to conform to ‘main subject’ study requirements, the time students spent on practical teaching and amounts of time allocated to the core subjects in the pupils’ NC.
Subsequently, circulars 9/92 (DfE, 1992) and 14/93 (DfE, 1993) involved schools even more in the training experience and gave schools the ‘right’ to be equal partners in ITT. The circulars formally required the use of competences in designing, teaching and assessing ITT programmes in England and Wales. Schools could now receive funds to deliver their own SCITT programmes and, from 1993, Ofsted was responsible for the inspection of schools, as well as of teacher training, thus enabling checks to be made on conformity with the new competences. Trainee teachers would traditionally have followed a three-or four-year undergraduate course (BA or Bachelor of Education (BEd)) which focused on subject knowledge and pedagogy, with opportunities to ‘practise’ their teaching in school, under supervision from a university-based tutor. Increasingly, a larger proportion of trainee teachers would now follow what was traditionally the secondary model, taking a first degree in a related subject area followed by a one-year PGCE.
A compulsory partnership of provision between universities and schools was introduced via a government circular (DFE, 1993), leading to a view of partnership as the ‘new orthodoxy’ (Wilson, 2005 p. 359). Wragg (1991) and Pollard, Broadfoot, Croll, Osborn & Abbott (1994) argue that these reforms indicated at least a partial endorsement of, and return to, the nineteenth-century ‘apprenticeship’ model of teacher training as trainee teachers spent considerable amounts of time learning in schools and not in university education departments.
The national drive towards school-based teacher training gave schools responsibility for:
the training of students to teach, to assess pupils and to manage classes, and for supervising students and assessing their competence (DfE, 1992, p. 4).
This required a much greater involvement of schools in the ITT process, working in partnerships with each other and with universities to deliver training (Price & Willett, 2006). It also brought new roles for teachers in supporting and mentoring trainee teachers, and for university tutors in supporting school-based staff as they embarked on mentoring roles. As Hodkinson and Hodkinson (1999,2001) note, the assumption inherent in these government directives was that the best place to train as a teacher was in school, and that the best people to do the training are teachers. Whilst Hobson (2003) suggests that the policy shift away from an emphasis on university-based theory towards competence based training in schools was what student teachers (and their predecessors) had always wanted (a view also supported by Asher & Mallet, 1999; Foster, 1999; Hobson, 2003; Younger, Brindley, Pedder & Hagger, 2004), others feel that the distinction between academic, university-based qualifications and professional accreditation had the potential to drive a wedge between the dual aspects of becoming a teacher (Hogbin & Jarmany, 1998). It is also argued that such a shift towards central governance and partnership has led to teachers being viewed as technicians involved in the delivery of a nationally stipulated curriculum which takes little account of the development of individual children’s understanding and learning (Blenkin & Kelly, 1997). Government intervention has, suggests Furlong (2005), led to a narrowing of teacher education and an approach that is predominantly functional, based on a ‘technical rationalist’ approach (Schon,
1983) with common frameworks and fixed objectives at its core.