Pupils' experiences in English primary school physical education (children aged 4-11) have, for a long time, been criticised at a number of levels with reports of cancelled lessons and the use of inappropriate activities being common findings. Moreover, some reports have claimed that by the time children leave primary school, many of them do not reach the standards in physical education of which they are capable. Findings published in international research generally agree with the negative experiences illustrated within English schools, highlighting problems related to teachers' attitudes to the subject, poor subject knowledge and low levels of confidence. These inhibiting factors have generally been brought about by negative experiences of their own school physical education and limited initial teacher education in the subject, with few opportunities for continuing professional development once in teaching.
This paper reports on the findings of research undertaken though a process of action research, charting the introduction of a curriculum approach designed for use with children in the early years of schooling (4-7 years) with a large number of schools across England. It examines the episodes of development and key milestones in the process of identifying potential solutions to the problems associated with teaching and learning in primary physical education, through to the design and development of a curriculum approach, and subsequent provision of professional development for primary school teachers.
We draw on data captured through post training evaluations, results of research conducted independently during the pilot year of the programme and our own reflections as we participated in the various stages of conceptualisation, consultation, design, implementation and review.
The paper will discuss i) the curriculum approach and its focus on a lifespan perspective of movement development; ii) the professional development approach and the value of observation of children during the training; iii) the approach to learning and a dual focus on pupil and teacher; and iv) teachers' expectations of professional development opportunities.