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Research in action

Colin Lee on ways to bring out PE's great potential

PRIMARY SCHOOL PHYSICAL EDUCATION - Research into Practice. Edited by Anne Williams. Routledge Falmer pound;15.99

As the editor of this authoritative book, Anne Williams presents a significant collection of studies showing key influences on teaching PE in primary schools. Collectively, the authors provide an informative and powerful link between research and professional practice.

The book addresses four main themes - the curriculum, health-promotion, safe practice and inclusion. At the same time there is a fifth, "hidden" theme that permeates the contributors' work and that is the inadequacy of initial teacher training. For so long the primary teacher has been playing "catch-up" in order to acquire the sort of know-ledge that this book provides.

Reviewing the National Curriculum, the authors aren't exactly optimistic about the future, but they do show what enormous potential the subject has. This is confirmed in a positive way by a small-scale research study:

"Curriculum Planning in Early Years Physical Education". Written to illustrate the teacher-as-rsearcher model, there is much to inspire the teacher to be analytical in a practical way.

There's an element of before-and-after in the way the book looks at health-related issues. The chapter reviewing recent research into children's activity patterns presents cautious conclusions, pointing out limitations in past research that offered nothing but doom and gloom.

It looks constructively at how PE can have positive health effects. A small-scale study of a health promotion programme in primary schools is reported on with details of an award scheme to promote an active, healthy lifestyle among children. This provides an excellent example of good practice. Similarly, the need for safe practice is considered.

Finally, chapters on girls' experiences of PE and the implications of Islamic perceptions of the subject are reminders of the difficulties faced in making PE inclusive. More research like that reported in this excellent book may well be the answer, so that equal opportunity is not compromised by issues such as clothing and changing procedures.

Colin Lee is an educationconsultant and inspector

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