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10.1177/1356336X07085708] Volume14(1):33–49:085708 EPER

Playing a political game and playing for

position: Policy and curriculum development

in health and physical education

Dawn Penney Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania, Australia

This paper addresses prospective policy relationships between health and physical
education (HPE) and contemporary education policies. It specifically explores the
opportunities and challenges that contemporary education discourses present for
policy and curriculum development in HPE. Contemporary education discourses of
lifelong learning, learning communities, personalized learning, inclusivity and
excellence are critically analysed in relation to policy and curriculum development in
HPE. It is contended that these discourses present a potentially strong focus for
advocacy and that their adoption may be an astute political move for HPE. Recent
curriculum development in senior physical education in Western Australia is used to
illustrate the scope for the discourses to be embedded in curricula and for HPE to
thereby be seen to firmly connect with key education agendas.

Key-words: health and personal education curriculum • inclusivity • lifelong

learning • personalized learning • policy

This paper focuses on the positioning of health and physical
education (HPE) in relation to contemporary (and notably
international) agendas in and for education. It is designed to
prompt engagement with discourses that may not currently be
either the first, preferred or prime reference point for many HPE
professionals. As has been highlighted on many occasions, the
history of the profession and subject is one of shifting alignments
with a range of discourses (see e.g. Kirk, 1992). This paper
neither denies nor seeks to dispel the diversity of interests. Sport
and health discourses in particular have both been a focus of
attention and critique in debates about the ‘nature’, aims and
content of HPE. Furthermore, they remain powerful points of
connection with public and political understandings of the subject
(Evans and Davies, 2004; Penney, 2000; Penney and Evans, 1997).
While there is a need to acknowledge the limitations of some of
those understandings, HPE also has to seek to simul-taneously
retain and strengthen its political and policy connections if it is to
Copyright © 2008 North West Counties Physical Education Association and SAGE Publications (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore)
34 E U RO P E A N P H Y S I C A L E D U C AT I O N R E V I E W 14(1)

the sustained investment that all within the profession seek. This
paper is, therefore, an advocacy paper in relation to the
positioning of HPE in relation to contemporary government
policies and, specifically, education policies. The emphasis is that
this is a time of political opportunity for HPE to represent itself in
terms of contemporary educational discourses and in so doing
reposition itself centrally in education policy. In recognition of a
frequent criticism that critical commentators within and beyond
HPE need to move beyond critique to also be ‘generative of
alternatives’ (Lingard and Gale, 2007: 2; original emphasis), the
paper comprises three distinct but fundamen-tally linked sections.
The first is conceptually driven, reflecting that an essential
element of the advocacy is a particular understanding of policy
and accompanying awareness of how we can look to productively
engage with ‘it’. Second, discussion identifies and analyses a set
of contemporary discourses with a view to their adoption and
expression in HPE policy and curriculum development. Education
policies in New Zealand, Australia and the UK are drawn upon to
illustrate the international presence and political appeal of
particular discourses. The third and final section focuses on
enactment and expression of the discourses. Recent developments
in senior physical education in Western Australia are used to
illustrate ways in which what may seem popular rhetoric can
effectively be translated into meaningful direc-tions in curriculum
development. The paper thus aims to make a conceptual and
substantive contribution to thinking and debate about policy and
curriculum development in HPE.

Problematizing HPE’s policy position

Before considering prospective futures, it is pertinent to reflect
upon the current standing of HPE in political and, specifically,
education policy arenas. While HPE may not be regarded as
insignificant, it nevertheless continues to be pushed to the
periphery when educational priorities are being considered by
governments and/or curriculum authorities. The typical location of
HPE staff and their facilities in schools, geographically ‘at the
margins’ (or dislocated from the core of educational activity),
remains a position that is seemingly symbolic of a potentially
costly gap between HPE and ‘core’ education. The notion of
‘dislocation’ is useful in capturing the frequent tendency for HPE
to be associated more with government and public aspirations for
health and/or sport than with education agendas (Evans, 2004). As
has been indicated, the position advocated in this paper is not
designed to sever long-standing and potentially fruitful policy
connections. It does, however, call for a renewed consideration of
how those connections can be integral to the defining of HPE as
first and foremost a core educational activity. A decade ago,
addressing secondary physical education (PE), Macdonald and
Brooker (1997a: 155) identified the challenge to construct
contemporary curricula that are ‘sufficiently defensible, rigorous,
and relevant within contemporary school cultures to ensure that
the subject [or learning area] is positioned as legitimate work ’. The
challenge to develop such curricula, achieve recognition of legitimacy within
and beyond education, and
P E N N E Y : P L AY I N G A P O L I T I C A L G A M E 35

thereby assure a level of investment that the subject deserves,

is still pertinent. Inter-nationally, amidst a still crowded
curriculum and with political attention often directed almost
exclusively towards literacy and numeracy standards, HPE’s
curricu-lum position at times seems far from strong or secure.
I believe that responding to the challenge posed by Macdonald
and Brooker (1997a) requires us to firmly engage with both
policy and political matters. In previous work I have sought to
develop understandings of policy conceptualized as a
contested process that simultaneously presents HPE
professionals with opportunities for and constraints upon
potential curriculum and pedagogical developments (see
Penney and Evans, 1999, 2005). Here the complex and
political nature of policy is reaffirmed in looking at HPE as a
‘policy space’ (Dery, 1999), with a focus on ways in which HPE
professionals can be pro-active in shaping that space.

Understanding the policy space

Health and physical education (HPE) can undoubtedly be
regarded as what Dery (1999) would term a ‘crowded’, and, I
might add, openly contested, policy space, with many interests in
and for the subject. Dery drew the concept of policy space from
the work of Wildavsky (1979, cited in Dery, 1999), recognizing
that it is useful in captur-ing the dynamic relations between
policies. Referring to ‘policy by the way’ Dery (1999) highlighted
the extent to which much of what we may associate with policy
‘making’ is in fact more a matter of policy taking, with policies
arising as by-products of other policies and/or being framed by
the constraints and possibilities generated by other policies. This
is a recognizable characteristic of policy development in HPE and
remains a relevant consideration in relation to contemporary
curriculum develop-ments in the learning area. For example, in
the development and subsequent revision of the National
Curriculum for Physical Education in England, each draft clearly
created opportunities and limitations for what could follow
(Penney and Evans, 1999; Penney and Harris, 1998). A historical
dimension to the process was very apparent in the NCPE as it was
in the development of the National Curriculum as a whole. As
Docking (2000a: 86) recognised, the revised National Curriculum
was ‘just that – a revision, not a radical rethink’. Yet at any point
in the process (i.e. the development of any particular draft) it is
also the case that other policy influences play their part. Policy
developments (and more particularly, boundaries to what is
thinkable and will be deemed a legitimate option) will always and
inevitably be framed by and in relation to established,
‘surrounding’ and emerging policies and practices; that is, past
and current policies within and beyond the immediate policy field.
Thus, as Wildavsky (cited in Dery, 1999) identified, policy spaces
are now notably ‘dense’ and there is a critical interdependence
between policies, such that each is effectively ‘contributing to the
definition of the context within which different policies may co-
occur’ (Dery, 1999: 163; my emphasis). Thus, in considering policy
and curriculum development in HPE, it is essential to
acknowledge that the policy landscape and terrain has some clear
and notably defining features in terms of the developments that it
will be possible to either
36 E U RO P E A N P H Y S I C A L E D U C AT I O N R E V I E W 14(1)

imagine or gain support for. Policy development is a process

that simultaneously is shaped by, occurs in and at the same
time further defines the policy context.
It is with these conceptualizations in mind that this paper
explores policy possi-bilities for contemporary HPE. It draws
attention to the fact that, while policy development is always a
matter of compromise, it is also still nevertheless an active
process; the policy space is, to some extent at least, ours to define
(Fitz et al., 2006).

Policy taking and contemporary HPE

In recent years in both professional and government settings
internationally, increased standing and status for HPE has very
openly been sought and gained through HPE being positioned in
relation to discourses with their origins in sport and health.
Arguably, the recent history of HPE is of a learning area and
profession invariably playing to political agendas that focus on
‘what else’ can be achieved through school-ing, the ‘other’
political agendas that are pursued in schools. The situation that
Burrows and Ross described in 2003, of health and physical
educators ‘positioned instrumentally as cure-alls for a range of
social and private ills’ (Burrows and Ross, 2003: 15), can be seen
as, at least in part, one of our own making. As Evans (2004) has
previously indicated, education has seemingly become something
of an absent presence in debates and developments in
contemporary PE and HPE. Amidst a sustained dominance of
discourses of sport and health, it is as if we have become afraid to
reaffirm education as the essence and indisputable ‘core business’
of HPE. Education, that is, which develops and celebrates
embodied knowledge, that extends the corporeal texts that young
people can draw upon and relate to, and that develops learning
and literacies that can serve them for life. I choose my
terminology quite deliberately, very aware that language is
inherently political and will serve to either reaffirm or disrupt
established understandings, views and visions. It will attract,
engage or, alternatively, alienate or exclude individuals. In this
paper I have sought to talk about, and talk, the language of
contemporary education, internationally. It is in this language that
I believe future directions for HPE need to be articulated in order
to actively reshape its policy space.
‘Education, education, education’
This paper takes as given that education is always political and
politically important. In the UK this was vividly captured in the
Blair government’s 1987 election commit-ment to ‘Education,
Education, Education’ (see Docking, 2000b). It was similarly
evident in 2003 when Hon. Trevor Mallard (2003), then Minister
of Education in New Zealand, identified education as at the heart
of his government’s endeavour to ‘build a strong future for New
Zealand’. More recently the fundamental importance of education
to the achievement of the New Zealand government’s economic
and social agendas has been reaffirmed in the updated ‘Statement
of Intent’ (Ministry of Education, 2007). In Australia there is a
similar emphasis that the nation’s future
P E N N E Y : P L AY I N G A P O L I T I C A L G A M E 37

‘depends on a high quality and dynamic school education

system’ (Department of Education, Science and Training,
I contend that currently education holds unrivalled potential
as an avenue and focus via which we may gain enhanced
recognition, development and sustained investment for HPE. It is
by no means the only possible avenue nor, on occasions, the most
publicly prominent. The political attention being given to obesity
and accompanying push for physical activity among all age groups
and particularly children, is inescapable. That focus can be seen
to open doors to new funding and new opportunities for
developments in HPE, which are to be welcomed. Yet, as Evans
(2004) and Gard (2004) have warned, in the long term, a move to
align HPE with those agendas (certainly if it is to the exclusion of
others) may prove a costly sidetrack for the profession. Discussion
here by no means dismisses policy agendas concerned with
health, physical activity or sport. Rather, the concern is with how
HPE connects with those agendas and, specifically, means of
ensuring that the connection is always with education as the core
reference point for HPE curriculum, teaching and learning.
Contemporary education policy discourses are therefore the focus
of analysis and discussion. Discourses of lifelong learning,
learning communities, personalised learning, inclusivity and
excellence, taken as a set of core contemporary education
discourses, are presented as a basis for renewed development of
HPE as a ‘connective specialism’ (Penney and Chandler, 2000;
Young, 1998). That is, it is a specialism unashamedly grounded in
education while firmly oriented to external arenas and interests,
focused upon engaging with the complex contexts in which the
knowledge to which the specialism gives access might be applied,
namely contexts of lifelong physical activity, sport, recreation,
dance, health and wellbeing.
While firmly advocating engagement with particular
contemporary education discourses that are notable for their
political profile, I am certainly not recommend-ing uncritical
adoption. All and any of the discourses should be treated with
scrutiny and an element of scepticism. Each can be presented and
interpreted in various ways, lack fixed meanings and are far from
politically or socially neutral. They are (and continue to be)
shaped to fit particular social and political purposes and advance
certain interests and agendas rather than others. To acknowledge
these characteristics of contemporary education discourses is not
intended to dissuade engagement with them. Rather, it is to
prompt recognition that we have before us a set of contested
discourses which, furthermore, we can and arguably need to
shape to fit our purposes. A further important point of comment
therefore relates to ‘our’ own agendas; what it is that we
personally might seek to achieve and advance in and through the
utilis-ation of particular discourses; what our interests in them
really are; how we are interpreting particular discourses and how
we can potentially enact them. Not everyone will share my
interest in the socially transformative potential of education and
HPE, in curricula and learning experiences that are explicitly
designed to advance social justice in education, HPE, sport,
health and society. My interest in contempor-ary education
discourses is tied to a concern to see developments in HPE which
will contribute to more young people having skills, knowledge and
understanding to shape
38 E U RO P E A N P H Y S I C A L E D U C AT I O N R E V I E W 14(1)

for the better the communities and societies that they are a
part of, rather than merely survive or succeed in them as they
currently exist. Having a transformative social agenda in our
professional lives and adopting the sort of outlook that Andy
Hargeaves (2004) advocates is, I suggest, very different to
accepting the role of solving pre-defined social problems.

Schools create future generations. That means teachers

must see themselves as intellectuals who possess a public
purpose and a social mission.
(Hargreaves, cited in Sparks,
2004: 47)

Yet at the same time I acknowledge that not everyone will

employ discourses of, for example, lifelong learning, with
societal change and more specifically, social justice, as their
focus, nor necessarily welcome Evans’s (2003: 77) contention
that there is a need to strive to better connect with and
provide for those people for whom lifelong learning (and
similarly lifelong participation in physical activity and sport,
and lifelong health) is seen to be ‘unnecessary, unappealing,
uninteresting or unavailable’. My point remains, however, that
we need to be clear and open about the ends that we have in
mind if we contemplate employing the discourses addressed in
the discussion that follows.

Lifelong learning
Instilling a commitment to lifelong learning, enabling and
encouraging people to become lifelong learners, providing them
with opportunities to develop ‘life skills’, are key contemporary
agendas for education internationally. Lifelong learning has been
aptly described as ‘the flavour of the times, beloved of
governments, policy makers and corporations’ (West, 2004: 138).
Nicholl and Edwards (2004) have high-lighted that lifelong
learning is a powerful political discourse with which we need to
engage critically. As an increasingly common way of framing
policy, it is being mobilised in various arenas (particularly of
education and training) for particular purposes. Therein lies the
essence of a clear challenge and perhaps unprecedented
opportunity for HPE. As HPE researchers, curriculum designers
and teachers, we are in an arguably enviable position to engage
with, and in so doing, overtly connect, multiple lifelong agendas –
of learning; participation in physical activity and sport; and
health/healthy lifestyles. I suggest that a so-called ‘hub’ position is
‘there for the taking’ or more accurately ‘making’ in policy terms.
By employing discourses with clearly shared policy appeal and
relevance, HPE has the potential to connect with and to multiple
policy arenas and agendas, and thereby position itself as a central
player in a major policy game. So called ‘joined up thinking’ is
widely acknowledged as much needed in many areas of
government, albeit difficult to achieve. In Lawson’s (2005) view it
is also critical to the sustainability of sport, exercise and physical
education professions. Figure 1 is therefore an attempt to capture
the connective potential (from a policy perspective) that arises
with learning, and specifically ‘lifelong learning ’ as the focus of and
for HPE. With attention centred on lifelong learning, the rationale for extending
professional networks and teaching, learning and research
P E N N E Y : P L AY I N G A P O L I T I C A L G A M E 39





(YOUNG, 1998)

Figure 1 HPE as a ‘connective specialism’

communities has a conceptual clarity and educational

soundness that I believe could signal a notable advance for the
learning area.

Learning communities and learning networks

The policy connections and coherency depicted in Figure 1 and
being advocated here are further reflected in discourses of
learning communities and learning networks. As lifelong learning,
these discourses have rapidly gained status internationally in
education policy initiatives and commentaries. Hargreaves (2004)
and more recently Lingard (2005) have emphasised, and
government policies are also acknowledging, that pedagogies and
‘pedagogic action’ need to be recognized as by no means confined
to schools, classrooms (in their traditional sense/form) and
teachers; ‘more learning than ever will take place outside of
institutions dedicated to learning and without a teacher’
(Hargreaves, 2004: 9). Learning and teaching thus needs to be
reconceptual-ized in relation to ever-changing communities and
networks and, critically, curricu-lum planning needs to align with
that reconceptualisation.
National education policy in New Zealand has provided a
clear illustration of these sentiments being expressed and
embedded in policy. The Ministry of Education’s Statement of
Intent 2003–2008 acknowledged that:
A learner supported by family, whanau and their
surrounding community is far more likely to flourish. A
person’s learning and development depends not only on
how they experience a crèche, school or wananga, but also
on what happens at home and in their wider social
(Ministry of Education, 2003: 29)
Open, networked providers that foster a culture of collaboration help
learn better. (Ministry of Education, 2003: 36)
40 E U RO P E A N P H Y S I C A L E D U C AT I O N R E V I E W 14(1)

Policy statements such as these prompt creative thinking about

where, when and how learning can (and does) happen and the
many people and platforms that facilitate learning in a rapidly
advancing technological age. These issues, and more
particularly the ‘shift in thinking’ that Bentley (1998)
articulated, are undoubtedly ones for all educators to consider,
but perhaps particularly health and physical educators (see
Penney and Jess, 2004).
. . . a shift in our thinking about the fundamental
organisational unit of education, from the school, an
institution where learning is organised, defined and contained,
to the learner, an intelligent agent with the potential to learn
from any and all of
her encounters with the world around her. (Bentley,
1998: 1)
I retain the view that we need to do more in HPE to reflect this
shift in thinking about learning, learners and learning
opportunities. In many respects it is about adopting a view of
learning as ‘lifewide as well as lifelong’ (West, 2004: 141; my
emphasis). Whether our work is based in universities, as teachers
in schools or as coaches or health professionals in community
contexts, the challenge is to embrace the reality that the
educational context in which we are working is only one of the
many that the learners we encounter are engaging with and
influenced by. Neither the development nor expression of physical
culture, physical capital, and embodied identities is confined to
schools. Yet I suggest that visions of learning networks or
communities that comprise an array of individuals and
organizations supporting learning in a coordinated and coherent
manner may prove in many instances to be good rhetoric but little
more. It is therefore notable that better engaging with the com-
plexities of any individual’s learning network is a central feature
of an ongoing drive in education policy in the UK, and
internationally, for ‘personalised learning’.

Personalised learning

Hargreaves’s (2004: 63) point is that personalised learning

needs to be understood as a process, ‘requiring providers
(education professionals) to do things differently for their
clients (parents and students)’. How to develop curriculum,
courses and pedagogies that recognize, effectively utilize and
help to enhance any individual student’s learning networks and
resources – and that, furthermore, draw upon and draw in the
sporting communities, family and friendship groups that they
may be a part of – is by no means a question with any simple
answers. Yet it is a question with which I believe anyone
claiming to have an interest in the lives, lifestyles,
achievements and wellbeing of young people should be
grappling, and which as educationalists we are being
increasingly challenged to address. The Standards Site in the
UK has a dedicated section on personalised learning, defined
Personalised learning is about tailoring education to
individual need, interest and aptitude so as to ensure that
every pupil achieves and reaches the highest standards
possible, notwithstanding their background or
circumstances, and
right across the spectrum of achievement. (DfES, 2006)
P E N N E Y : P L AY I N G A P O L I T I C A L G A M E 41

Once again, the policy perspective can be deemed to have

already found expression in education policy statements in
Australia and New Zealand.

This country’s vision must be to see that every young

Australian should be encouraged to find and achieve their
own potential – whatever that is.
(Brendon Nelson, Australian Federal Minister
for Education, Science and Training, 2005)

Our focus is on better learning for every New Zealander. This

focus spans all stages of learning, from a child’s initial
learning to the adult becoming a lifelong
learner. (Ministry of Education, 2003: 6)

Learners are more motivated and self-directed when they

can see the system works for them. A good system needs to
be flexible enough, both in content and approach, to meet
the varied needs of diverse learners.
(Ministry of Education, 2003: 18)

Personalising learning is central to the transformation that

needs to occur in our education system in order to meet the
needs of a 21st century knowledge society. (Ministry of
Education, 2007: 18)

The consistent emphasis in all of the policy pronouncements,

upon adaptability and responsiveness to individual needs and
interests, is as relevant to endeavours to encourage lifelong
participation in physical activity and sport, and to the pursuit
of lifelong health and wellbeing, as it is to learning. It is
precisely the ‘transferability’ and shared appeal of
contemporary education discourses to which I am directing
attention as a prospective source of status and influence for
HPE in policy and political arenas.
Thus far I have largely presented selected discourses as
holding inherent appeal. While advocating that we explore the
potential of lifelong learning, learning communities and
personalised learning as a development focus in HPE, I am,
however, also seeking consideration of their potential
shortcomings. More specifically, I stress the need to explore
and endeavour to reduce inequities amidst new learning
networks that impact upon individual young people’s ‘life
chances’ in terms of education, physical activity, sport and
Inclusivity and excellence
We might question whether discourses of inclusivity and
excellence are ones that can legitimately or effectively be
combined and, furthermore, whether they align with those of
lifelong learning, learning communities and personalised learning.
In address-ing them in tandem I am advocating an understanding
of them as fundamentally linked. More specifically, my contention
is that, if we adopt a discourse of personalised learning, we have
an obligation to explore, develop and promote a notion of
excellence that embraces broader conceptualizations of ability
and achievement in HPE than have
42 E U RO P E A N P H Y S I C A L E D U C AT I O N R E V I E W 14(1)

traditionally been dominant in professional, political and public

arenas. To do so necessitates first that we acknowledge and
understand ability ‘as a dynamic, socio-cultural construct and
process’ (Evans, 2004: 99; original emphasis). In the model of
a connective specialism presented here, that construct and
process also needs to be aligned with and informed by
interests in learning and wellbeing ‘for life’ for all young
people. That means thinking anew about the skills, knowledge,
understand-ings and values that should be regarded as ‘life
skills’ from a HPE perspective.

To build a successful system of personalised learning, we must

begin by acknowl-edging that giving every single child the
chance to be the best they can be, whatever their talent or
background, is not the betrayal of excellence, it is the
fulfilment of it. Personalised learning means high quality
teaching that is respon-
sive to the different ways students achieve their best.
(DfES, 2006)

I believe that HPE is well placed to adopt the discourse of

personalised learning and, more specifically, explore ways in
which that discourse can translate into the promotion of personal
excellence and development of sound pedagogic networks capable
of supporting all striving to make the best of their potential. In
now turning attention to recent developments in senior physical
education in Western Australia (WA), I have two key concerns.
First and foremost, it is in an endeavour for critical policy analysis
to go beyond rhetoric and advance some way towards articulating
policy implications and possibilities (Lingard and Gale, 2007).
Second, the example serves as an import-ant reminder of the
significant challenges inherent in moves to firmly engage with
these discourses. Developments in WA have illustrated ways in
which HPE can undoubtedly connect with the contemporary
education discourses but have also re-affirmed the contested
nature of policy and curriculum development within and beyond
HPE. Notably, following accreditation at the end of 2005, Physical
Education Studies together with other courses scheduled for
implementation in WA schools in 2007 have been ‘refined’ and at
the time of writing are set to be reaccredited in the light of
political, professional and public debate over the desirable form,
content and means of assessment for senior secondary school
courses in WA.

An illustrative case in policy development:

senior secondary schooling in Western Australia
Our Youth, Our Future (Curriculum Council, Western Australia
2002) provided the catalyst and underpinning principles for the ongoing
reform of senior secondary schooling in WA. The report was characterised by
an overt concern for the achieve-ments and potential of more students to be
recognized, more students to have oppor-tunities to realize their personal
potential and be supported in doing so. Those interests have directly informed
the development of new senior secondary courses for year 11 and 12 students
in WA. For the first time in WA, senior secondary courses in the HPE learning
area are set to have parity with all others, as a long-standing TEE (Tertiary
Entrance Examination)/non-TEE subject distinction is dissolved and a suite of
new courses introduced. But the developments in WA go far beyond seeking to
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extend access to tertiary education. Inclusivity and

connections to learning and work beyond schools have been
key concerns.

All students, regardless of their achievement at the end of

year 10 and/or their post-school intentions will be able to
progress toward higher levels of achievement and
qualifications within one structure. The wide range of options
available to students will be articulated clearly and provide
access to university, training and
employment pathways. (Curriculum Council, Western Australia, 2002:

Developments in WA can thus be seen to align with

international agendas for more flexible learning pathways, as
reflected in the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s
statement that:

Successful outcomes for all students require a range of

learning pathways. One size does not fit all. Children arrive at
school with different early childhood experiences and different
levels of development. How students learn, the pace at which
they learn and their interests vary between individuals . . .
There needs to be more focus on the process of transition
between different parts of the education
system and into employment. (Ministry of Education, 2003: 39)

Below I focus on one of the four new senior secondary school

courses being developed in the HPE learning area, Physical
Education Studies (PES), exploring points of connection with the
contemporary education discourses identified above. The new
PES course is being implemented in WA in 2007, ahead of Health
Studies, Children and Family Studies, and Recreation and
Outdoor Education in 2008.

Learning for life . . . and learning opportunities for all

In line with all of the new senior secondary courses, PES is

designed to build directly upon students’ K-10 curriculum
experiences and achievements. The outcomes developed for the
PES course (as accredited in 2005) aligned with the K-10
outcomes for HPE in WA. Continuity in learning and the
progressive development of skills, knowledge, understandings,
attitudes and values that will enable and encourage students to be
lifelong participants in physical activity, have been clear foci in
the course development (see Curriculum Council, Western
Australia, 1998, 2005; Penney, 2006). As previously noted,
challenges posed by the commitment inherent in Our Youth, Our
Future to inclusivity have been recognized as significant.

In looking to extend interest in Physical Education Studies for

years 11 and 12, a key challenge has been to develop a course
that is neither only for the academic elite, nor only for the
sporting elite – but rather, that provides students with wide
ranging interests and abilities in physical education, physical
activity and sport with opportunities to make the most of those
particular interests and abilities, to have their individual
potential recognised, and be supported in
pursuing it. (Penney, 2006: 24)
44 E U RO P E A N P H Y S I C A L E D U C AT I O N R E V I E W 14(1)

Notably, the new PES course and opportunities that it presents

recognizes that participation may take many forms and involves
people playing various roles in an array of activity contexts. The
course has explicitly sought to embrace and provide opportunities
for the further development of interests and abilities of
prospective elite performers, recreational sportspeople, future
coaches, teachers, officials and admin-istrators and to actively
promote the sort of ‘integrated’ approach to teaching and learning
that has been a focus in the development of senior PE in
Queensland (see Macdonald and Brooker, 1997a, 1997b). The new
PES course in WA is a course that in important respects can be
seen as openly challenging narrow perceptions about learning and
achievement in PE and, therefore, also about ‘who has a
legitimate place and the potential to achieve in Physical Education
Studies, sport and physical activity arenas’ (Penney, 2006: 25). A
significant intention is that achievement of the course outcomes
will be possible through various roles and in many learning
contexts, and that students will thus be able and encouraged to
pursue multiple learning and participation pathways through their

Personalising learning in learning communities

For some students this will mean that they are able to gain a
vocational and educational training certificate (Certificate II Sport
– Career Orientated; Certificate II Sport – Coaching; Certificate II
Sport – Officiating) or particular units of competency as an
integral part of their PES (see Curriculum Council, Western
Australia, 2005, 2006), while retaining the potential for their
studies to count towards tertiary entrance (provided that stage 2
or 3 course units are completed). In seeking to connect with more
students’ lives and provide students with the best possible
opportunity to demonstrate their achievement of the course
outcomes, the new course has also (to date) avoided stipulating
particular activity/ies. Course development has acknowl-edged
that schools are not the only site of a student’s learning and that
there may be instances in which evidence of learning arguably
should come from other sites of learning, including community,
club and representative sport and physical activity settings.
Designing procedures to enable such evidence to be gathered and
submitted in ways that are equitable is a challenge for curriculum
authorities, but an important one to engage with if they are to
avoid effectively denying notions of learning networks as an
important feature of learning and teaching in HPE. In HPE as a
whole (not only in the senior years) we surely need to be looking
to ways in which we can better connect with, utilise and value
learning beyond HPE lessons.
Personalising learning also demands acknowledgement that, as they
approach year 11, not all students are at the same point in their progress
towards achievement of HPE learning outcomes, nor will they all be able to
progress their learning at the same rate. All of the new senior secondary
courses in WA allow students to follow combinations of semester-long course
units that best suit their personal learning achievements and potential. The
anticipation for 2007 is that students may commence their year 11 PES studies
with a unit that matches their learning progress
P E N N E Y : P L AY I N G A P O L I T I C A L G A M E 45

in the K-10 curriculum. Within a framework comprising units

organized into three stages that are designed to progressively
extend students’ skills, knowledge and understanding, it is
anticipated that, while some students will commence their
studies at stage 1, others may be in a position to enter at stage
2. Progression to stage 3 units is acknowledged as by no
means a route appropriate for all students (Curriculum
Council of Western Australia, 2007).

Provision and pathways in practice

How the new PES course will be presented within and beyond
schools, and to whom it will appeal, will be seen in time as
implementation continues in WA. I suggest that the new course,
together with other senior secondary courses currently in
development in WA, position HPE professionals with the ability to
clearly connect with and utilise the educational discourses that
have been the focus of attention in this paper. HPE in WA appears
to be set to have the scope to present itself as a ‘connective
specialism’, with HPE professionals able to position themselves as
‘connective specialists’ (Young, 1998). In conclusion I therefore
return to the case for that position to be pursued by HPE
professionals within and beyond WA.

This paper has sought to emphasize opportunities for notably
strategic and innovative developments in policy and curriculum
development in HPE, across all phases of education and beyond
the structural boundaries of institutions. Hargreaves’s (2004)
comments on ‘personalisation’ reaffirm that the policy agendas
and discourses that I have focused on are not merely there for the
taking, but for our shaping.

Neither ministers nor officials are entirely sure what it means

– and that state of affairs is to be welcomed, since it means we
can all share in determining what it
means in principle and practice. (Hargreaves, 2004: 99)

Evident, therefore, is the opportunity (and not only constraint)

that is reflected in Ball’s (1990: 17) argument that any
consideration of discourses needs to address ‘who can speak
where, when and with what authority’ and acknowledge that
there are always some spaces for creative discursive action. I
have argued that HPE professionals need to be proactive in
establishing and pursuing their authority to speak contem-
porary education discourses and furthermore, that doing so is
critical for the future of the learning area. The question that I
therefore close with is whether HPE professionals individually
and collectively have the energy and insight to ‘drive’ policy
development in particular directions and, in many respects, to
thereby reclaim and reshape the HPE policy space.
46 E U RO P E A N P H Y S I C A L E D U C AT I O N R E V I E W 14(1)


This paper is an adaptation of the paper entitled ‘Policies with

potential and the politics of positioning’ presented at the ICHPER-SD
1st Oceania Congress, ‘Fusion Down-Under Recipes for Movement:
Challenging Perspectives and Constructing Alliances/Wha¯ranu Ki-
raro He Tohutaka ma¯ nga¯ Koringa: Whakatara whakaaro me te
hanga hononga’, Wellington, New Zealand, 1–4 Oct. 2006. I would like
to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an
earlier draft of this paper.


1 The term Health and Physical Education (HPE) is used throughout

this paper. Discussion is intended to connect with the learning
area of HPE and the subject of PE.
2 The inherent limitations of language in discussing policy are
acknowledged. Reference to policy always needs to encourage a
move beyond fixed notions of policy and relate policy to a
dynamic, relational process (see Bowe et al., 1992; Penney and
Evans, 1999, 2005).
3 In Maori culture whanau is the extended family and wananga
refers to a ‘house for instruc-tion’ in Maori culture.
4 On 22 Jan. the Hon. Minister for Education and Training, Mark
McGowan, announced key changes to senior school reform.
Details were reported in the Curriculum Council e-newsletter, 31
Jan. 2007 (Curriculum Council, Western Australia 2007, see
5 Names of courses may change prior to accreditation and/or in
reaccreditation. The latest documentation (Preliminary
Consultation draft, Formal Consultation Draft, or Accredited
Course document) for all of the courses can be found at http://
6 The clarification ‘to date’ reflects that further changes may occur
in the reaccreditation process.

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Jouer un jeu politique et jouer pour une conception: politique
et développement du programme en éducation physique et à
la santé

Cet article traite des perspectives politiques entre Éducations Physique et à la Santé (HPE)
et les politiques éducatives actuelles. Il explore particulièrement les possibilités et les défis
que les discours contemporains sur l’éducation représentent pour la politique et le
développement du programme en HPE. Les discours actuels sur l’éducation sur
l’apprentissage tout au long de la vie, les communautés d’apprentissage, l’apprentissage
personnalisé, l’équité et l’excellence sont analysés de façon critique en relation avec la
politique et le développement du programme en HPE. Nous affirmons que ces discours
représentent une incitation potentiellement importante pour un soutien et que leur adoption
serait une décision politique avisée pour l’HPE. Un récent ajout dans le programme pour
l’Éducation Physique au Lycée en Australie de l’Ouest illustre l’objectif d’inclure ces
discours dans les cursus et de considérer l’EPS comme clairement connectée avec les
orientations-clés de l’éducation.

Jugando a la política y jugando por un posicionamiento: política
y desarrollo del curriculo en la educación física y la salud

Este artículo aborda las relaciones en política prospectiva entre la educación

física, la salud y las políticas educativas contemporáneas. Específicamente,

explora las oportunidades y los

P E N N E Y : P L AY I N G A P O L I T I C A L G A M E 49

retos que los discursos educativos contemporáneos representan para la política de desarrollo
curricular en la educación física y la salud. Se analizan de forma crítica los discursos propios de
la educación contemporánea en relación con la política y el desarrollo curricular en la educación
física y la salud como el aprendizaje a lo largo de la vida, el aprendizaje comunitario, el
aprendizaje personalizado, la inclusividad y la excelencia. Se afirma que estos discursos
representan un potente foco de atención para su defensa y que su adopción puede significar
una astuta acción política en favor de la educación física y la salud. El desarrollo del currículum
de educación física dirigido a los mayores que ha sido recientemente realizado en la parte oeste
de Australia, es utilizado para ilustrar el alcance de los discursos y de su inserción en el currículo
para que la educación física y la salud se vean firmemente conectadas a las claves de las
agendas educativas.

Spielen eines politischen Spiels und das Spiel um
Positionierung: Politik und Lehrplanentwicklung in
Gesundheits- und Bewegungserziehung

Der Aufsatz spricht eine mögliche politische Verknüpfung von Gesundheits- und
Bewegungserziehung (HPE) mit der gegenwärtigen Erziehungspolitik an. Im Besonderen
untersucht er die Möglichkeiten und Herausforderungen, welche die gegenwärtige
Erziehungsdiskussion für die Politik und die Lehrplanentwicklung für HPE bietet. Die
gegenwärtige Diskussion um lebenslanges Lernen, Learning Communities, Personalized
Learning, Inklusivität und Exzellenz werden bezugnehmend auf Politik und Lehrplanentwicklung
für HPE kritisch analysiert. Es wird behauptet, dass diese Diskussionen eine potentiell starke
Tendenz der Befürwortung aufweisen, und dass ihre Übernahme ein cleverer politischer Zug pro
HPE sein kann. Anhand der neuesten Lehrplanentwicklung in der Senior Physical Education in
Westaustralien werden die Möglichkeiten illustriert, wie diese Diskussionen in Lehrpläne und
HPE hineinwirken können, und wie diese somit in starker Anbindung an die wichtigsten
Erziehungsprogramme gesehen werden können.

Dawn Penney is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania.

Address for correspondence: Dr Dawn Penney, Faculty of Education, Human

Movement, University of Tasmania, Locked Bag 1330, Launceston, Tasmania
7250. [email:]