Testing, training and tensions: the expression of health within physical education curricula in secondary schools in England and Wales
journal contributionposted on 22.02.2013, 15:04 by Jo Harris, Gemma Leggett
This paper utilises critical discourse analysis to explore and discuss the expression of health within physical education (PE) curricula in secondary schools in England and Wales. The study adopted a case study approach, involving three state secondary schools in England and two in Wales. Data were drawn from interviews with PE teachers and health-related school documentation in the five schools, plus observation of a health-related unit of work in one of the schools. The expression of health in PE broadly reflected ideologies associated with promoting ‘fitness for life’ and ‘fitness for performance’. The extent to which teachers could express their favoured discourses in policy and practice was partly determined by their position of power, relative to others within the department, although they could find ways of privileging their favoured discourse in their own lessons. Curiously, rhetorical ‘fitness for life’ discourses were commonly expressed through ‘fitness for performance’ practices in the form of testing and training activities. These were found to be the most common contexts for the delivery of health-related learning. In terms of Bernstein’s location of discourses within contexts of educational systems, the findings suggest that recontextualisation of statutory PE curricula occurred at the site of the relocation of discourse (in this case, within physical education departments in secondary state schools), resulting in the privileging of discourses heavily influenced by sport and fitness-related ideologies. Improved awareness of the expression of health in secondary school PE curricula should help to better understand and address the complex tensions between health-related policies and practices in schools.
- Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences