‘Blurred lines’: The duty of physical education to establish a unified rationale

Sprake, Andrew orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5164-770X and Walker, Sue (2015) ‘Blurred lines’: The duty of physical education to establish a unified rationale. European Physical Education Review, 21 (3). pp. 394-406. ISSN 1356-336X

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1177/1356336X15577221


The recent review of the national curriculum, which places Physical Education as a compulsory subject at key stages 1–4, indicates a government commitment to the subject. However, given the contested history of Physical Education’s priorities and practices, such commitment should, perhaps, be handled with care. The main strength of Physical Education lies in its ability to develop the child holistically, through a focus on the promotion of physical literacy, but more recently the emphasis has been on its ability to support academic achievement. This suggests a dualistic view of Physical Education, whereby the mind and body are separate and physicality is viewed as a subservient function to cognition. It is argued, however, that these aspects cannot be separated, as it is the holistic development rooted in monism that enables the individual to flourish both physically and intellectually. In January 2011, the Department for Education launched a review of the national curriculum, with a ‘greater emphasis on competition’. This totally ignores the notion that competition does not suit everyone and may be catastrophic for some pupils’ self-esteem, having implications for physical activity levels. This paper concludes that a number of aspects require further consideration if the true value of Physical Education is to be realised. The pedagogical implications of a curriculum underpinned by physical literacy must be debated and a consolidated approach agreed.

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