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Practical Teaching: Physical Education for Secondary Schools

| August 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

Authors: C. Burnett, R. Naidoo and C. Roux
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 978-0-19-907817-2
Reviewed by: Fiona de Villiers

Oxford University Press’s (OUP) Practical T eaching: Physical Education for Secondary Schools (there’s also a resource for primary schools) will be a boon for every teacher who lays a hand on it.

Many researchers and policy framework specialists have since echoed Francois Cleophas, a senior lecturer in sport science at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, when he commented publicly in 2014 that physical education (PE) in our South African state schools has reached a point beyond crisis.1

Cleophas made a strong argument, citing a lack of adequate PE teacher training facilities under the apartheid government as one of the root causes of the malaise in PE. Said Cleophas:
By 1948 when the Nationalist Party wrenched itself into control, the Healdtown Training School2 had a standard six entry level for its specialist physical education courses, the Wesley Training School3 had a standard eight and the Cape Town Teachers’ Training College4 had matric. The then ruling party made specialist physical education training the privilege of a certain sector of the community and stopped the Healdtown course, presumably due to the low enrolment. This unequal distribution of physical education specialist teacher training remained intact until 1994. Sadly, the new regime did [sic] little to remedy this situation since 1994.

Physical education part of life orientation

In the new post-apartheid national curriculum, PE was neatly tucked away into a corner of the life orientation curriculum. Said Cleophas:
The result was bad practice, and in most cases no practice at all. Many government initiatives tried to intervene but neglected to focus on the curriculum. Of course, poor curriculum development goes hand in hand with bad teacher training and poor curriculum delivery in the classroom (or sports field or gym).

When the national curriculum was revised to include the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS),5 the result for PE was, said Cleophas, “a weak attempt at curriculum delivery… Clearly no decent research was done on the physical education component that forms part of life orientation in the FET CAPS document.”

The Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, has backed calls made by Cleophas and others to reform PE in state schools. In 2014, Mbalula included the following extract in his speech during the budget vote debate:
Our consistent call to have physical education de-linked from the subject life orientation, and made a stand-alone subject has been ignored and disregarded. We strongly and firmly believe that physical education is key to ensuring that sport at schools becomes an integral part of the curriculum.

We believe that there should be dedicated teachers for physical education. It remains our call that the Department of Basic Education should ensure that there is adequate availability of skilled physical education educators in all schools and a dedicated period for physical education, outside of life orientation, on which learners must be assessed, with particular focus being on schools in rural areas.6

Independent schools have important role to play

OUP has worked with the Discovery Vitality Schools Programme7 on these textbooks, which can aid specialist and non-specialist PE teachers alike. For the latter group, without the proper preparation, PE can easily become yet another onerous duty to fulfill.

Independent schools can make use of this book in various ways. It can confirm to the novice PE teacher that they are “on track”, and can reinvigorate the practice of more experienced coaches and trainers.

An even more life-changing possibility exists for independent schools lucky enough to have a wealth of equipment and expertly trained teachers. These experts could strengthen the school outreach programme by connecting with an under-resourced partner school. All parties could, by means of study sessions, go through the OUP guide intensively and carefully. Sharing on a number of levels could then take place.

Every aspect covered by expert authors

OUP has produced a superior manual for just such a purpose. Section one deals with introductory concepts: how and why to teach PE. In section two, practitioners can learn how to make their own equipment and how to teach the fundamentals of PE, warming up and cooling down. In section three, the authors discuss the key principles that should underpin any school PE programme: fitness and wellness. After reading this section, PE instructors can contribute to major dietary and physical activity throughout the entire school, given that the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Southern Africa declared during National Obesity Week in October 2015 that:
South Africa has the highest overweight and obesity rate in sub-Saharan Africa, with up to 70% of women and a third of men being classified as overweight or obese. A staggering 40% of women in our country are obese, which means they have a body mass index greater than 30 kg/m2. However, this is no longer just an adult problem, one in four girls and one in five boys between the ages of two-14 years are overweight or obese… The problem starts in childhood and continues into adulthood, with less than two-thirds of children participating in weekly physical activity.8

In sections four and five of OUP’s Practical Teaching: Physical Education for Secondary Schools, the authors have provided some great games and movement techniques that could become part of a regular programme. Section six, “Outdoor recreation”, introduces the notions of orienteering, dance and self-defence. In the final section, safety issues predominate.

Let’s play!

Throughout this resource, clear pictures and instructions are supplied, with extra helpful safety hints appended to each activity, information on common mistakes and how to rectify them, as well as ways to advance mastery of each activity and how to adapt to changing environments and circumstances. A fantastic “Additional reading” section closes off the book, which comes with an equally brilliant CD, compiled by the Discovery Vitality Schools Programme. For those who’ve also read the OUP resource for primary schools, it’s now time to participate in the Let’s Play Physical Education Challenge – a nationwide government event targeted at Grade 4s in South Africa’s 18 000 primary schools.

The challenge aims to reinforce the instruction of curriculum-oriented physical education and promote physical activity in all schools. The final will take place at the end of
October 2016. For more details, visit:


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Category: Spring 2016

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