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The predicament of primary physical education: a consequence of 'insufficient' ITT and 'ineffective' CPD?

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journal contribution
posted on 2012-12-05, 13:22 authored by Jo Harris, Lorraine Cale, Hayley Musson
Background: Research on primary physical education (PE) in England and other countries has shown that it is an aspect of the curriculum that has suffered from sparse initial teacher training (ITT). As a consequence of ‘insufficient’ time spent on PE in ITT (PE-ITT), primary teachers often have low levels of confidence and competence with respect to teaching the subject. Evidence also points to inadequacies in traditional forms of professional development in PE (PE-CPD), leading to calls for more effective ways of developing teachers' competence to deliver high quality PE. Purpose: To explore primary school teachers' experiences of PE during ITT and the PE context in their schools prior to them engaging in a national PE-CPD programme, and their perceptions of the immediate and longer-term effects of this programme. Setting and participants: Primary school teachers in five local education authorities in England. Research design and data collection: A combination of quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches were adopted, including: pre-course audits, course evaluations, focus groups and semi-structured interviews. The pre-course audits captured information about the teachers' experiences of PE-ITT and the PE context in their schools prior to them engaging in the CPD. The course evaluations focused on initial impressions of the PE-CPD, and the focus groups and interviews captured the teachers' perceptions of its longer-term effects. Findings: For up to half of the teachers, their PE-ITT was ‘insufficient’ in terms of the time dedicated to it and the breadth of coverage of the subject. The PE-CPD programme, which was designed in the light of ‘insufficient’ PE-ITT, demonstrated features of ‘effective’ CPD in that it was considered relevant to classroom practice and partially addressed some of their many needs (especially in relation to content ideas and inclusive practice). However, its effectiveness was undoubtedly limited due to: its short time span and minimal engagement with teachers; a heavy reliance on resources; and the absence of follow-up support. In addition, it did not adequately address known areas of development for primary PE (such as medium to long-term planning and assessment) and was challenged in meeting the diverse needs of primary teachers of 5–11 year olds. Furthermore, inadequate PE time and reduced opportunities to teach PE in some schools limited implementation of learning from the PE-CPD. Conclusions: The findings of this study confirmed that PE-ITT continues to be ‘insufficient’ for many primary teachers and that the PE-CPD in question, whilst partially ‘effective’, was not, and could never have been, the panacea for the inherent issues within and predicament of primary PE. In effect, this PE-CPD programme with its limited duration and engagement with teachers, a heavy reliance on resources, and no planned follow-up support was not sufficiently different to forms of CPD described in the literature as ‘ineffective’; consequently, it could not hope to compensate for long-term systemic weaknesses such as inadequate primary PE-ITT. These weaknesses need to be addressed through a dual approach of ‘sufficient’ PE-ITT followed by ‘effective’ PE-CPD which engages teachers and their colleagues in long-term collaborative endeavours that support transformative practice.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


HARRIS, J., CALE, L. and MUSSON, H., 2012.The predicament of primary physical education: a consequence of 'insufficient' ITT and 'ineffective' CPD? Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 17 (4), pp. 367 - 381.


Taylor and Francis (© Association for Physical Education)


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This article was published in the journal, Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy [Taylor and Francis © Association for Physical Education]. The definitive version is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17408989.2011.582489






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