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Games given a fitness test;Briefing;Document of the month

The PEcurriculum has been overshadowed by controversy over allowing 14-year-olds to drop team games. Sarah Cassidy looks at the facts

The new PE curriculum aims to boost children's thinking skills as well as improving their fitness. There is to be a fresh emphasis on solving problems rather than simply acquiring skills by repetition.

The revamp aims to produce "intelligent performers" by making current good practice part of the compulsory curriculum.

Secondary pupils should now learn to take the initiative and make decisions about the tactics and skills best suited to success in their chosen sport.

A new format puts strategy, planning and evaluation at the core of the compulsory curriculum. Although they had always been compulsory they were not integrated into the programmes of study, and research showed they were ignored by many schools.

The link between fitness and health is also given more emphasis under the new curriculum. Pupils will now need to understand the impact of preparation, training and fitness on performance and know how to design and implement training programmes for a particular purpose.

Meanwhile, it was the decision to allow 14-year-olds to drop team games such as football, netball and cricket which attracted the most controversy.

From September next year, GCSE students will have far greater choice of how they spend their PE lessons.

They currently must play a competitive sport plus either dance, gymnastics, swimming, athletics or outdoor adventure activities. However, under the new curriculum they can drop games and choose any two of the six activities.

Research and Office for Standards in Education evidence had showed that many teenagers, particular girls, were put off sport for life by the games they were forced to do at school.

Officials hope the new curriculum will enable more students to enjoy PE by allowing them do the activities they enjoy.

Meanwhile, compulsory content in the curriculum has been cut for all age groups. Whereas the old curriculum specified detailed lists of what should be covered in each activity, the new one allows much more flexibility.

Lists of skills included in the current curriculum - such as balancing, rolling, swinging - had been found to limit pupils' development and enjoyment. From 2000 these will be optional or removed entirely to allow teachers more freedom to tailor lessons to pupils' abilities.

The junior curriculum was thought to be particularly overloaded and will be cut by one sixth. Juniors will now do either athletics or outdoor adventure activities, not both. OFSTED evidence showed that, although some schools offered extremely good outdoor adventure activities, many others were not meeting their statutory obligations. Athletics was also scaled down because its basic skills such as running, jumping and throwing were felt to be equally developed by other sports.

A new optional introduction to swimming has been added for infants, which is currently first mentioned at key stage 2 - where it remains statutory.

This guidance is intended to give a more gentle introduction to the water for five to seven-year-olds and begins with walking, hopping and jumping in water and gradually moving on to floating and basic strokes.

At KS3, activities will no longer be split into whole and half units. Currently, pupils must do games plus one whole activity unit plus two half units. From 2000 this will be replaced by a more straightforward system where all activities carry the same credit.

Full document available on THE NEW LOOK FOR PE.

Pupils build on their natural enthusiasm for movement and curiosity for learning. They use movement extensively to explore and enjoy the world and develop their learning. They develop their ability to relate to, and work and play with others, at first in pairs and later in small groups. Through watching, listening and experimenting they acquire and secure motor and coordination skills which they repeat and use to express and test themselves in a variety of situations.

Key stage 2: Pupils begin to increase the range of their physical skills and, later, to refine them and use them more fluently. They enjoy communicating, collaborating and competing with each other, and using their creativity and imagination. They develop the ability to link and combine a number of skills together and to repeat them consistently as whole sequences of movement. They enjoy being active and gradually develop clear views about how to succeed in different activities and how to evaluate and recognise their own success and progress.

Key stage 3: Pupils learn to adapt and modify their motor and manipulative skills, and tactical and compositional plans, and to use a range of techniques specific to the activities undertaken. They start to understand and apply principles of effective performance. They develop the capacity to work with complex and demanding tasks individually and in groups and teams. They learn to take the initiative and make decisions for themselves about how to move forward in their own learning, and what types of activity they prefer to become involved in. They are able to start to take on a variety of roles such as team captain and referee.

Key stage 4: Pupils make clear choices about the roles and emphasis they wish to take in physical activity. They make their own decisions about whether to become predominantly involved in an activity with a competitive or performance base, purposeful activity which promotes personal and social health and well-being, or one which is focused around personal fitness and self-image. They decide on the roles that are best suited to them within the activities undertaken, including those of performer, coach, choreographer, leader and official. Their involvement in active lifestyles out of school and in later life is strongly influenced by their perception of their own skillfulness and personal competence, and the knowledge they have which gives them confidence in exercise and physical activity.

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