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Physical education: a picture of health? The implementation of health-related exercise in the National Curriculum in secondary schools in England

posted on 21.10.2010, 10:30 authored by Jo Harris
This thesis documents and explores factors influencing the way in which physical education's (PE) contribution to health in the form of health-related exercise (HRE) was viewed, approached and delivered by secondary school PE teachers following the introduction of a national curriculum for physical education (NCPE). The methodology incorporated both quantitative and qualitative approaches. A national survey of 1000 secondary schools in England in 1993 elicited questionnaire responses from 72.8% of heads of PE departments (PE HoDs) from a proportionate sample of schools stratified by type, age range, gender, size, and geographical location. Analysis employed the Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SSPS). Case studies were completed in 1995 in three randomly selected mixed sex state schools in the South, Midlands and North of England. Case study data analysis focused on the progressive identification of themes and concepts associated with the implementation of HRE in the NC. The findings revealed that the NCPE's explicit attention to health issues was welcomed although views varied regarding interpretation, delivery and assessment of the requirements. Most schools had adopted a combination of approaches, involving discrete units and permeation through the activity areas within PE, and/or delivery through other curriculum areas. Consensus existed for some theoretical areas although a physiological bias was evident. There was limited evidence of a well-structured and co-ordinated approach to integrating health issues within the PE activity areas, and that delivered in discrete units often had a itnessorientation, reflecting adaptation of the performance rationale underlying the 'traditional' games-dominated PE programme. Conceptual confusion prevailed regarding the multi-dimensional concept of HRE, and the varying relationships between PE, sport, health, and fitness. The expression of health issues in the NCPE revealed limitations to the accommodation of HRE, mismatches between intentions and outcomes, and a tendency to reflect inequitable practices. Influences included school and individual characteristics, contextual constraints and prevailing ideologies. Creative interpretation of the NCPE remains possible in the form of innovative programmes which integrate health and PE, and which challenge 'physical fitness' and 'sport performance' orientations. A committed, comprehensive and coherent approach to health issues is rarely a central feature of school PE. Nevertheless, a 'shared vision' of the expression of health in the NCPE clearly remains desirable and possible.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Jo Harris

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Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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