Not for the want of trying

10th September 2004 at 01:00
For someone charged with the responsibility of preparing the new generation of PE teachers, Malcolm Thorburn displays a sad lack of confidence in the ability of the current practitioners to prepare PE programmes that will not bore pupils "witless" with "an introductory sampling of a narrow range of activities."

Such a pejorative and disrespectful dismissal of what a core non-examined programme can offer does him no service (neither does his reference to me as "Cairney" - an appellation that may be de rigeur in the halls of academe but does not wash with this non-academic).

Malcolm's description of two hours a week PE as the "holy grail" is patronising and tendentious and totally distorts the aspirations of those teachers who tried, unsuccessfully, to produce a Manifesto for Physical Education for Scotland all those years ago before they were frightened and pressured into going for certification.

Imagine what might have been possible if a fraction of the thousands of hours put in by hundreds of teachers to develop certificate courses - now being undertaken, on his own admission, by only 30 per cent of the school population - had been used to define and devise quality core PE programmes for the 100 per cent of young people from nursery to the upper secondary.

Perhaps the forthcoming curriculum review will address this.

His contention that I fail to acknowledge the difficulty of changing policy and practice "unless teachers consider innovation to be worth while" could not be further off the mark. It was my experience of trying to change policy and practice while simultaneously a member of the executive of the Scottish Physical Education Association, a delegate to the Scottish Council on PE and convener of the Educational Institute of Scotland central advisory committee on PE that proved to me that PE practitioners were never going to be allowed effectively to influence the curriculum in any way; hence my support for the PE review group's conclusions since it at least contained practising teachers.

Responding to Malcolm's suggestion that I should "engage proactively in the policy construction process", might I suggest that he uses my article to initiate discussion among his students and invite me (and himself, of course) to expand on our respective positions. Could be fun.

John Cairney

Potassels Road



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