The enactment of new Senior School Physical Education curriculum policy in Western Australia

Year: 2015

Author: Paveling, Barry, Vidovich, Lesley, Oakley, Grace

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Global curriculum policy trends have seen changing discourses in Physical Education curriculum and teaching. The introduction of the first examinable senior school Physical Education Studies course as part of the Western Australia Certificate of Education (WACE) represented an opportunity for policy actors to re-define the future direction of Physical Education in WA. However, this policy change has intersected with the development of the Health and Physical learning area in the Australian Curriculum.

Although the primary focus of this paper is Physical Education policy in WA, national policy directions are also relevant to the analysis. The research reported here used a ‘policy trajectory’ framework to examine: policy influences; the policy text production; the subsequent policy practices or enactment; and the emerging longer term policy outcomes. Data was collected from interviews with key policy actors at the national and State levels, but the greatest emphasis was placed on how policy is being enacted in three case-study schools in Western Australia. These schools represent the Government, Catholic and Independent school sectors. Teachers who taught WACE Physical Education Studies were interviewed as part of each case-study. Findings revealed a widening gap between what was intended as part of curriculum policy and what was enacted. High-stakes testing and competition between schools has meant that Physical Education curriculum policy has been highly influenced by ideological tensions between senior school Physical Education in Western Australia and the newly introduced Australian Curriculum. Such tensions have served to return the learning area back to traditional sports science roots at the expense of recent trends towards a socio-critical emphasis in Physical Education curriculum. With senior school curriculum having a top-down influence into the lower secondary school years, this poses a challenge for Physical Education as a learning area moving forward. Consequently, it is important for all policy actors to understand the forces involved to ensure that Physical Education curriculum policy remains dynamic and relevant to the demands of 21st century education.