What is PE? (update)


I originally posted this a few weeks ago, trying to put down my views on how broad a subject PE is and the benefits that it brings to students in school.

I feel I need to add some to this to really highlight the need for PE to be a central component of a child’s development and definitely something that should not be left to chance.

Now to put in some initial context, I am a PE teacher, I did lots of sport in school and outside of school. I had supportive parents and sporty friends. All of this added up to an active childhood but things are not like this for all children.

The political climate changes how sport is viewed all the time, when it is important as it is in the public domain such as with the Olympics it is seen as important for it to have a place in school. When the PISA tables are announced it seems to lose its value.

A physically literate child is not just a sporty child, they will not just populate sports teams. A physically literate child will have great social skills, will be adaptive, will deal with failure and learn from it, will transfer skills across a range of situations and will no doubt excel in academic areas too (there are lots of studies that prove this)

If physical activity is left solely in the hands of sports rather than education there is a real danger that this will be lost. I have no doubt that sports teams will develop skills in children and the skills of teamwork etc will shine through. What about the children that don’t like sport though? The children that don’t have access due to family constraints? The children whose friends don’t go to clubs? If you take physical out of education you leave it up to chance that ALL children will get this huge benefit.

That brings me up to my original post.

So often PE is just viewed as Sport, how many teachers think the PE staff just blow a whistle and the children just run and kick a ball?  Unfortunately this does happen, but i’m sure there are still teachers that just get students copying out of a book in other subjects.

In reality PE is so much more than sport and is a great way of helping to develop the whole child.

PE has the ability (if taught well) to build up a child’s self esteem, confidence, motivation, teamwork, fair play, independence, leadership and maybe even their ability to play sport. I am currently working with a team (PESS) looking at how PE can also support literacy and numeracy.

The new way of looking at PE is through Physical Literacy.  This term encompasses the variety of skills and qualities that can be developed through high quality PE, not just playing sport and certainly not by restricting students to doing things that have always been done.

We are looking at developing practice of teachers at all key stages to help develop a curriculum  that engages all students and ensures students take responsibility and ownership of their activities and being creative.  This is important as the academic world is quickly being replaced by the creative intellects (though Gove may disagree).

In looking at literacy and numeracy through PE it is important to note that PE is not being used to teach maths and english.  PE is an important part of any child’s education.  It contributes towards a healthy lifestyle.  It can however be a place where students can apply the skills of numeracy and literacy and to see the relevance of why they are learning it.

In mapping the numeracy skills it is clear to see that in lots of physical activity you are using math skills.  For instance most sports collect a huge amount of statistics, analyse them, interpret them and use them to revise performance.  This is just one area where the numeracy skills learnt will actually develop the skills in PE.  In literacy the same applies.  The ability to communicate clearly can make the difference between giving feedback that has no impact and feedback that really changes the performance or confidence of an individual.

In conclusion I urge all teachers, both those that teach PE and those that don’t, to see PE for what it truly is.  Many have had a bad experience of the sport being the main thing and if you were not good you were an outcast.  This is not the case anymore and it is essential that PE remains a key part of a child’s education.

(the same can be said of lots of other subjects that allow creativity and education needs to be all encompassing to give students the ability to engage in things that appeal to them.  More maths and english in my opinion is not the answer.)

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