Monitoring health, activity and fitness in physical education: its current and future state of health

2012-12-06T12:15:36Z (GMT) by Lorraine Cale Jo Harris Ming-Hung Chen
Various government policies, strategies and responses in England over the years have highlighted schools and physical education to be instrumental in addressing health and the focus on health has been strengthened within subsequent revisions of the National Curriculum. Whilst this might seem encouraging, concerns have been expressed that such policies and governmental regulation increasingly bear features of a ‘performative culture’ and that these have led to increasingly widespread health surveillance in schools. Linked to this are long-standing concerns over the way in which health is addressed in schools and physical education, as well as over some of the monitoring measures and practices employed within the curriculum. Despite this, little is known about monitoring practices in physical education. This article, therefore, presents findings of a study which aimed to (1) determine the nature, prevalence and purpose of monitoring health, physical activity and physical fitness within the physical education curriculum and (2) establish physical education teachers’ views of and approaches to monitoring. The study comprised two phases. The first phase involved a survey completed by Heads of Physical Education in 110 secondary schools from across England, and the second semi-structured interviews with 18 of those from the original sample. The findings revealed monitoring, and in particular fitness monitoring, to be a common feature within the physical education curriculum in many schools. However, a number of issues and limitations associated with monitoring and some of the schools’ monitoring practices were identified, and the individualistic nature and performative culture reflected in and reinforced through monitoring were acknowledged as potentially problematic. It was thus suggested that if the findings are typical, then monitoring practice is currently not in a good state of health. The article concludes proposing a way forward for monitoring within physical education in the form of some recommendations for practice.