Quality PE is what matters
In recent weeks, concerns have been highlighted once again about the number of schools that are not yet delivering two hours of physical education each week, a target they are expected to meet by 2008.
The Scottish Executive's physical education review group, however, drew attention to the need not just for more time, but for two hours of quality PE every week.
But what does quality physical education look like? According to the executive's physical activity task force report in 2002, it should:
* "be enjoyable and worthwhile, meeting the needs of all pupils." The casual visit to a gym will confirm that most children enjoy physical education and activity. But why? It may be the time out of the classroom, the physicality, the activities, the climateethos in the gym, learning and teaching or a combination of all these.
There are several reasons why physical education is worthwhile, but key factors must be the education of the whole child - physical, cognitive, social and emotional; appropriate developmental learning outcomesintentions; high-quality teaching; progression in learning, achievement and inclusion - so that PE contributes to learning in a wider context than simply the physical. With these elements in place, we are meeting the needs of all pupils.
* "keep pupils actively involved for most of the class time". We want children to be actively learning for as much of the lesson as possible. If this is not feasible, pupils can be actively involved through observation, peer assessment and score keeping, for example.
* "include co-operative and competitive experiences". As a core skill, pupils are encouraged to work together. Physical education is an effective vehicle for promoting co-operative experiences, from games to creative dance. However, it does not always have to be about competition against others: there are opportunities to compete against oneself, against the stopwatch, against a partner as well as another team or group.
* "develop and maintain pupils' self-confidence". It is not uncommon to hear pupils say: "I can't do that" or "I'm not good enough". Very young children are ego-centric and are not concerned about how others are doing.
But, as children develop and mature, they become more aware of their peers'
physical skills and compare themselves with them. In PE, practical performance is public and for less confident or less competent children this can be daunting. But, by using various learning styles, a variety of teaching strategies and with differentiation as the way to vary the pace of learning, high-quality teaching helps children become more confident, more competent and more successful.
* "help pupils evaluate their performance". Helping pupils evaluate their performance is a key part of the learning process, leading to progression and achievement. By setting clear criteria, self-assessment, peer assessment and group assessment become effective mechanisms for a positive learning experience for children.