Primary Physical Education in England

Authored by: Helen Ives

Routledge Handbook of Primary Physical Education

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138682344
eBook ISBN: 9781315545257
Adobe ISBN:


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Over the last 30 years or so in England there has been a ‘dramatic change in the political salience of school sport and PE’ (Houlihan & Green, 2006: 74); some have even termed it to be a ‘quiet revolution’ (Department for Education & Skills, 2007). Although there were sporadic criticisms of physical education in the 1960s and 1970s (Kirk, 1992), it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that physical education was thrust to the forefront of political debate, played out through the media with the creation of a ‘moral panic’ (Evans, 1990). Schools were heavily criticised and physical educators were accused of neglecting their traditional responsibility – servicing the needs of elite sport (Kirk, 1992). This argument gathered momentum when in March 1987, Panorama aired a documentary – Is Your Child Fit for Life? The programme investigated the demise of competition and school sport, blaming physical education teachers and their move to a participation ‘sport for all’ approach, claiming that this was cultivating a new breed of PE teachers (Evans, 1990). The moral panic complemented by a lack of success in elite competition resulted in physical education teachers being attacked by politicians and government alongside negative media reporting (Evans, 1990; Kirk, 1992, 1999). Physical education was now under threat as a subject (Hardman & Marshall, 2001; Macfadyen & Bailey, 2002; Hardman, 2008).

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