Providing 'health and fitness' assessment in the pursuit of education market appeal

Year: 2012

Author: Hay, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The education reform agenda of the neoliberal society has been described by Ball (2003) as “embedded in three interrelated policy technologies; the market, managerialism, and performativity” (p. 215). Two notable outcomes of these policy technologies have been the increasingly decentralised control of schooling and education provision and the increasing significance of systemic and standardised forms of assessment. These particular forms of assessment and the data they generate are central to the activities and management of education systems for it is through the processes of systemic and standardised assessment measures, and the meritocratic assumptions that underpin them, that a currency of performance, comparison, quality and choice can be generated. Consequently discourses of measurement, performance, and standards (in particular forms) are central features of these systems. Ball has demonstrated the ways in which external providers of education within these decentralised and increasingly market oriented contexts have invested heavily in the discourses and technologies of measurement to both optimise their entry into the school/institutional education fields and to create their own market spaces within it.

In the field of health and physical education there are numerous examples of the use of assessment and measurement discourses to advertise or market external provision of HPE oriented or associated programs and products. Often these measurement approaches involve various fitness tests, monitoring of body parameters such as height and weight and the reporting of this information in succinct and performative forms. For example the 'SmartStart program for Kids' “measures and reports on the health and fitness characteristics of primary school children” and involves “assessment measuring areas such as body composition, cardio fitness, power, functional coordination, strength and flexibility.”

Drawing on numerous examples from the marketing material of external providers of HPE oriented services, this paper will focus on the way in which discourses of assessment and measurement are used to facilitate the acceptance and appeal of external health and physical activity/education service in contemporary education systems. Furthermore, the paper will highlight the impact of certain forms of assessment on the message systems of curriculum and pedagogy in HPE in the services that are offered and their impact on the perception and engagement of HPE in the broader school community.