The future of primary physical education: A 3-14 developmental and connected curriculum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Over the last thirty three years as a teacher and lecturer I have observed and experienced the marginal role that primary PE has played in schools, within the PE profession and in higher education. During this period the PE literature has consistently emphasised the low status of primary PE (Pollatschek, 1979; PEA, 1987; Williams, 1989; Shaugnessy & Price, 1995; Carney & Winkler, 2008; Griggs, 2010), especially in relation to the core subjects of English, Mathematics and Science (Pickup & Price, 2007). In recent years, however, there are signs that primary PE is gradually beginning to receive more attention around the world (Xiang, Lowy & McBride, 2002; Armour & Duncombe, 2004; Ha, Lee, Chan & Sum, 2004; Marsden & Weston, 2007; Morgan & Burke, 2008; Quay & Peters, 2008; Petrie, 2010). This change in fortune is particularly noticeable in Scotland where, following the publication of a national Review of PE (Scottish Executive, 2004), the number of primary school children receiving two hours of curriculum PE increased from 5% to 55% in a four year period (Scottish Executive, 2006; Scottish Government, 2010). In addition, the Scottish Government has supported a considerable increase in PE-CPD opportunities for generalist primary teachers by commissioning both the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh to create and deliver postgraduate masters-level certificates in primary PE to help class teachers develop a specialism in primary PE. Available to all registered teachers in Scotland these programmes have attracted in excess of 1200 teachers from all 32 local authorities which, in a country with just over 2000 primary schools, is beginning to help primary PE move from the margins of education. Within this emerging context, the Developmental Physical Education Group (DPEG) at the University of Edinburgh has been involved in a longitudinal project to create a vision of primary PE as the foundation for children’s lifelong engagement in physical activity (Jess, Atencio & Thorburn, 2011). While secondary PE remains equally important, the DPEG believes that starting to take PE seriously when children enter secondary school is far too late. However, the group also acknowledges that for this change to come about the PE profession needs to have a much clearer vision of primary PE: not an easy task given the traditional focus of PE on the secondary school years. Therefore, building on its original Basic Moves efforts aimed at children between the ages of five and seven (Jess, Dewar & Fraser, 2004), the DPEG has spent the last decade working to articulate a vision for a developmental PE curriculum that covers the three to fourteen (3-14) age range (Jess, 2011). While this project remains a ‘work-in-progress’ this chapter presents an overview of the key principles underpinning these curriculum efforts before discussing how a this developmental curriculum can be structured to act as the foundation for children’s learning experiences in PE.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAn Introduction to Primary Physical Education
EditorsGerald Griggs
ISBN (Print)9780415613095
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2012


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