Back in 2007 I read a very interesting view of the then National PE Curriculum by Sellers and Palmer – a great read but a sobering one. The ‘new’ curriculum is now in the public domain for scrutiny and I spent an afternoon rambling in my mind about all that I was reading. When you daydream there are no rules and I found myself thinking of how Sellers and Palmer had finished their article –
If it seems not to be a programme of study and not to fit the profile of a scheme of work, then what is it? It may be at best a sketchy guide to one possible way of looking at the range and content of P.E. with key concepts, key processes and curriculum op¬portunities sections being not at all relevant to such a guide. Hoped for outcomes are rose-coloured at best and dream aims at worst in a physical education. If the QCA and the Government think this is a document of worth and a valuable aid to teachers then they are wrong. It is pretentious twoddle and it is not worth the paper it is written on, and that is a dogmatic claim.
Sellers, V. and Palmer, C. (2008) Aims and dreams. A sideways look at the Physical Education programme of study for Key Stage 3 and attainment target, QCA National Curriculum document (2007).Journal of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies, 2, 1, 191-216.
During my internal rambling I recalled just one point in the new curriculum which sent me off into a wild ride of fantasy –
‘Key Principles of the National Curriculum
• Freedom, responsibility & fairness – to raise standards for all children’
So…..what standards? Are we to believe that there will be some progressive bio-motor standards for our children to attain as they negotiate their journey through to adulthood? Will these standards follow the principles we see in numeracy and literacy e.g. annual objective standards to be achieved along the continuum?
If this is the case then we may have a chance of reducing the crippling burden on the National Health system and create a generation of healthy children who are a little more cognisant of the need to reject a sedentary lifestyle.
‘A tsunami of obesity and muscular-skeletal / metabolic syndrome threatens to engulf the NHS.’
They may also be stimulated to greater academic achievement by being more ‘physical’ on a daily basis.
In a meta-analysis, Sibley and Etnier (2003) concluded that a significant positive relationship exists between physical activity and cognitive functioning in children.
Can this be true that someone is, at last, going to put the ‘physical’ back into Physical Education? Can we expect our children to spend an hour a day in moderately intensive physical work where they ‘puff and pant’ and actually perspire. Will we see the cobwebs finally cleared from the showers and our children exposed to the daily hygiene of personal cleanliness after exercise. Will all this be compulsory right through to the end of their schooldays?
I guess these standards will include a weekly assessment of body composition considering that obesity is clearly a critical issue nationwide. Surely this will be so considering that it is reported that by 2030 we will reach pandemic proportions of obesity.
With 1/5 of 2 to 5 year olds obese and a further 14 per cent overweight ……….should this trend continue it is forecast that 60 % of adult males, 50 % of adult females and 25 % of children will be obese by 2050 ……and around 35% of adults and 30% of children will be overweight (Department of Health, 2006).
….predict that if the current trend continues, up to 48% of men and 43% of women in the UK could be obese by 2030, adding an additional £1.9-2 billion per year in medical costs for obesity-related diseases.
With cardio-respiratory problems on the rise at earlier ages maybe we can expect that within each of the hours designated to physical activity our children will be engaged in actual work; that they will develop physiological and muscular efficiency / endurance.
What of the behavioural opportunities? Every athlete I have coached has displayed fortitude, perseverance, discipline, a strong work-ethic and an understanding of the ‘consequences’ of their actions. Perhaps these traits may also be developed generationally by the appropriate use of this new curriculum.
What about movement? With these new standards in place I would expect that each child will be on a progressive journey of Physical Competence where we measure their movement efficiency across a number of foundation movements. These movements will obviously form the pathway to the long term reduction in muscular-skeletal disorders of which a large number of adults currently suffer.
‘56% of workplace absenteeism is due to muscular-skeletal disorders.’ Absenteeism – Manual and Non-Manual work sectors (CIPD Report, 2007)
The new standards will, no doubt, be progressive and our expectations for improved posture, stability and strength in all directions and planes can be high.
What of competitive sport in this new ‘standards’ based approach? Things are certainly going to be improved in this journey as we will have a leaner, stronger and movement competent generation to encourage into competitive sport. Their skill acquisition will be bolstered by their movement efficiency, consistency and resilience gained from their 60min-a-day exposure to progressive physical work.
The development of their basic abilities in agility, balance and coordination would have been well set due to their exposure to the creation of a massive movement vocabulary during their formative school years.
Investment in a broad range of movements requires adjustments to be made in motor control and motor creativity which encourages adaptability. (Baker, 2003)
Their ability to adapt to the competitive environment of reaction and decision-making would also have been well developed through the clever teaching / coaching methodology employed by all the well trained practitioners along the continuum. They would have solved movement puzzles on a daily basis at the same time that they were exposed to just the right amount of explicit learning opportunity. They would have journeyed to sports-specific opportunity and arrived having ‘earned the physical right’ to explore competitive sport.
I guess we can thank our lucky stars that all our teaching and coaching institutions were way ahead of the game when it came to the content of their courses in relation to this new PE curriculum adventure. By them bringing the content of their courses into the 21st century, well ahead of this change to national ‘physical’ standards, helped a great deal. For the first time in many decades we had teachers and coaches just as well versed in pedagogy, learning styles, building the athlete from the ground up, as they were in force-plates, gas analysis and force/time continuums.
Then I woke up.