The gap between ‘promise’ and ‘reality’ – How can PE contest with the rest?

Afternoon everyone, I plan on writing a bit about an article I read today and then asking you some questions, of which I am looking forward to hearing your opinions.

Today I read a very interesting article by Ken Hardman (2008), the purpose of his research was to identify the current state of physical education in Europe. Now obviously lots of things have changed since 2008, the British PE curriculum, just to mention one. However, when reading through the article a number of things jumped out at me that are still present today, in 2015.

Hardman suggests that “across Europe, there was a gradual erosion of school PE time allocation throughout the 20th century”, countries such as Denmark, Sweden, France and Greece all lost allocated time dedicated to PE. This was put down to the significance of PE as a subject, schools tended to prioritize subjects that had more educational/academic value. Although the time allocation problem seems to have stayed the same, PE as a subject still seems to be less of a priority in comparison to other academic subjects. 

Particularly in my current school, a large majority of pupils’ parents place no importance on PE as a subject and are more concerned about target grades and attainment in Maths and Science. I think this is predominantly down to a lack of, or misunderstanding of what PE actually is. Culturally,  a substantial amount of our parents want their children to become doctors or engineers, which is completely fair. However, they seem to not acknowledge the fact their children need to learn about healthy, active lifestyles and making correct decisions throughout their time in school and for the rest of their lives. 

So the struggle in this particular example is in fact ‘promoting PE’, educating parents and pupils what PE is as a subject, what our main aims and objectives are. Our so called ‘promises’. This is an example from outside Europe within a completely different culture.

In Europe comparatively, knowledge of the subject and its objectives is, in general, much higher. PE is well regarded within Germany, Spain, Finland and Sweden, just to mention a few. However, Hardman suggests that the promises of PE curriculum aren’t actually being kept in reality. 

Over the last few years PE practitioners have been imagining, innovating and developing some great initiatives that could be used to help reach these ‘promises’, but as Dr Ashley Casey and Dr Vicky Goodyear have previously stated, many of these initiatives never actually make it past the ‘honeymoon phase’. 

In order for the reputation of PE to increase we need to ensure that we are meeting the ‘promises’ that our subject sets out to achieve. 

The questions I am somewhat ‘long-winded-ly’ trying to get around to posing to you are these;

How do we increase the reputation and priority of PE as a subject? 

How can we make our subject as important, if not more important, than other academic subjects?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


4 thoughts on “The gap between ‘promise’ and ‘reality’ – How can PE contest with the rest?

  1. .If you think of a job; any job in the world it requires some element of of important skills that we try and teach in PE . Whether it be team work, communication, leadership, knowledge on health active lifestyles and diet, problem solving (and the list goes on) in all jobs in the world they require these skills. This is without mentioning the obvious health benefits. Without good health thousands of hours of work will be missed. We try to showcase to parents this every year with our sporting oscars. Also Cross-curricular links with high profile departments are important to forge


  2. Hi Nathan,

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts as always. I wonder if PE is as ‘secondary’ or ‘forgotten’ as some research suggests. Compare the number of children that rush to their PE lesson with that of those who cannot wait to get to Science or maths. This is true for your school (and yes, there are many who hate PE or who avoid it at all costs) as well as at my current school. I would argue that PE has a distinct advantage, especially at KS3/middle school, in that it naturally engages many students. I believe the question might actually be ‘how can student engagement be maintained all the way to the end of high school?’

    This is a much more difficult question to answer for me; I could argue that a horizontal and vertical curriculum review might add credence to the subject (such as teaching core Biology topics such as nutrition, effect of exercise, respiration etc.). Not just for the sake of it but with the explicit expectation that lessons will be taught in a similar fashion to what I would in IGCSE Biology (and would be expected to be used in the actual Bio examinations). My own counterargument would be that this would quickly turn many students off PE; I certainly remember hating PE A-level because I found the biological, sociological and historical aspects of PE boring. I wanted to be faster, improve my technique and be allowed to focus on my core sports (which were cricket and snooker). I wanted to practise all sports and do repetitions and become as skilled as possible. In the same way that I want my students to be skilled scientists rather than regurgitators of information as is the way these days.

    I do not know (I simply do not have the expertise) how a PE curriculum could achieve that balance between being loved by a large majority of students and being desired and respected by all stakeholders. Having taught aspects of BTEC PE (never again, please) and A-level PE, I am yet to see a curriculum which really delivers what we want as teachers or a sporting nation/society.



  3. Pingback: The PE Playbook – May 15 Edition | drowningintheshallow

  4. Pingback: The PE Playbook – May 15 Edition – drowningintheshallow

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