Thinking back to your school days will no doubt conjure all sorts of memories - your best friends, the ones you’ve lost touch with, the teacher who scared you, school dinners, and your favourite (and most hated) classes. This week the Youth Sport Trust celebrates Physical Education and School Sport (PESS) through National School Sport Week in the UK. Physical Education (PE) is undoubtedly one of those subjects that people have strong opinions about. There are usually two camps - those who loved PE and the thought of racing around the playing field, whatever the weather. And, those who dreaded the prospect of putting on their kit and being made to do activities they detested. Which camp would you sit in? Whatever your experiences and views of PE, we are mindful that this area of the curriculum can be influential in shaping future physical activity and sporting dis/engagement. PE should enable young people to feel confident about their bodies and want to be active. Indeed, at the heart of National School Sport Week is a recognition that all young people should be supported to have positive and fulfilling PESS experiences. Sadly, research (both nationally and internationally) has consistently recognized this is not always the case with PE often pivotal in discouraging future interest in physical activity and sport.
Staff within the PE and Outdoor Education Academic Group have been at the heart of the debates arising from this research. And, during National School Sport Week we have have taken the opportunity to write a series of blogs that offer a glimpse of our teaching and research within PESS. Of course, it is worth remembering that there is a strong tradition and heritage within the Carnegie School of Sport for supporting PESS. We were one of the first ‘PE colleges’ in the country and have trained thousands of PE teachers who now work in schools and other community sport settings around the world. In more recent times we have supported a growing community of PhD students who lead the way in generating new knowledge that feeds into our undergraduate and masters courses. For instance, Ruth Brazier’s research explores how pupils that are marginalized in PE feel about and experience the subject. Matthew Staples is focusing on disabled PE teachers and their socialization into the profession. Sarah Pinder is exploring the place and impact of adult-child touch on PE. This research, and that of our other colleagues, is helping to ask some crucial questions about the value of PESS within and beyond schools.
In asking these kinds of questions, staff within the PE and Outdoor Education Academic Group are committed to inspiring and developing the next generation of PE teachers and community sport practitioners. We achieve this through our research informed teaching, partnerships with schools and other physical activity providers, and the experiential nature of our curriculum. The blogs this week offer a snapshot of some of the good work we are doing to develop critical practitioners. First, Belinda Cooke and Michelle Dillon in their blog ‘Pedagogies for social justice in Physical Education: what should student teachers learn?’, highlight the need for practitioners to better understand the diversity of learners within our classrooms and use this insight to teach in flexible ways. After this, Tom Quarmby, Danielle Powell and Michelle Dillon ask in their blog ‘Why do we need to know what parents think of Physical Education and School Sport?’ Finally, John Connell focuses on ‘Dance in Education: Affirming its position and place’ and reflects on how undergraduate students can, and do, embrace dance as a valuable part of PESS. Although each of our blogs has a very different focus, collectively they demonstrate the breadth of possibilities that PESS brings to teachers, undergraduate students and young people. PESS deserves to be part of the school curriculum and when people think back to their school days and PESS, we need to ensure everyone feels motivated by this to lead an active lifestyle.