J. MacLean, R. Mulholland, S. Gray, A. Horrell

University of Edinburgh (UNITED KINGDOM)
This research forms part of a larger study that examines curricular change within the Scottish context from the broad perspective of ‘policy makers’, ‘managers’ and ‘physical education teachers’. This current study set out to explore physical education (PE) teachers’ perception of recent curriculum changes within the Scottish context which saw their ‘subject’ placed firmly within the curricular domain of ‘health and well being’ (A Curriculum for Excellence Scottish Executive, 2004). This paper looks to explore teacher understanding of the rationale that led to these changes and the future impact this may have on the nature of physical education as teachers begin the process of embracing a ‘new vision’ for PE.

Eighty-eight secondary school physical education teachers responded to a questionnaire that explored teachers’ perceptions of curriculum change. Respondents were full time physical education teachers working in secondary schools across Scotland and represented 16 local authorities. In addition, seventeen physical education teachers within one local authority took part in semi-structured individual interviews.

The results from the questionnaire indicated that 63 percent of teachers believed there was a need for change within the Scottish curriculum. The reasons cited for change were diverse in nature and ranged from economic and political pressures to concerns relating to health and educational experience. Moreover there was a consensus that the Scottish curriculum needed to be ‘fit for purpose’ and prepare young people for the future. Interestingly, less than 43 percent of participants rated their understanding of the new curriculum as satisfactory. The interviews supported the findings from the questionnaire and further revealed teachers’ hopes and concerns about the future of physical education. While the alignment of PE within health and well being was seen as an opportunity to build on the strengths of the subject, concerns were raised that this shift in identity may result in physical education loosing itself within or even being known as ‘health and well being’.

The information will be of interest to a number of parties, namely those responsible for curriculum design, academics within ITE; those responsible for the design and delivery of CPD programmes and teachers.