Sue Wilkinson MBE and CEO of AfPE discusses the state of physical education and the urgent need for positive change. Sue, an advocate for celebrating the incredible work of physical education teachers, highlighted the challenges faced by educators and emphasised the importance of advocating for the subject. The conversation covered various aspects, from changing the culture in physical education departments to engaging stakeholders, including parents and external providers. We have created a digest of the conversation below:
Celebrate Your Success
Sue began by addressing the prevalent issue of teacher burnout, expressing her concern for colleagues who seemed visibly exhausted. She stressed the significance of acknowledging and celebrating the exceptional work done by Physical Education teachers. Encouraging a change in the norm, Sue urged educators to take pride in their accomplishments and share success stories during staff meetings. Recognising and appreciating the positive impact on learners was identified as a key component in fostering a healthier work environment.
Advocacy in Physical Education
The conversation shifted to the need for a cultural shift in the way Physical Education is perceived both within school departments and externally. Sue emphasised the importance of being visible and vocal about the subject. She urged educators to advocate for their profession at every opportunity, from staff meetings to interactions with parents. The key takeaway was to be proactive in sharing the positive aspects of Physical Education, highlighting the impact on students’ learning, enjoyment, and overall well-being.
Change in Culture and Collective Positivity
Nathan raised the question of whether a change in culture was required within Physical Education departments and throughout schools to improve the way educators talk about the subject. Sue affirmed the need for a collective effort to create a consistent framework for celebrating achievements and being positive. She suggested leveraging technology to share successes more widely and encouraged educators to be proud of their contributions.
Discussing the role of stakeholders, particularly parents, Sue acknowledged the challenge of changing negative perceptions some parents might have about Physical Education. She proposed strategies such as writing letters home, creating articles and posters designed by children, and using various media to showcase the positive impact of PE on students’ lives. Sue stressed the importance of tailoring approaches to different communities and being inclusive and relevant.
Encouraging New Teachers
Nathan sought advice for newly qualified teachers entering the field of Physical Education. Sue’s response highlighted the importance of sharing passion, inclusivity, clear communication, and celebrating progress in every lesson. She encouraged new teachers to be true to their values, adapt their teaching methods based on student needs, and embrace the shared journey of learning.
Remaining True to Teaching Identity
A significant portion of the discussion revolved around the challenges faced by new teachers when their teaching identity clashes with a prescribed way of delivering the curriculum. Sue acknowledged this struggle and emphasised the need for the profession to address this issue collectively. She encouraged teachers to be brave, try new methods, and not fear making mistakes, as learning and progress often emerge from those experiences.
In conclusion, the podcast highlighted the critical need for Physical Education teachers to celebrate their successes, advocate for their profession, and drive positive change collectively. Educators were urged to celebrate their successes, advocate for the value of PE, embrace diverse teaching approaches, and address challenges collectively. By fostering a positive and innovative environment, teachers can ensure that physical education continues to positively impact the lives of students and receive the recognition it deserves.
About the Guest
Today’s guest is Sue Wilkinson MBE, CEO of the Association for Physical Education. As an ambassador for PE in the UK, Sue received her MBE for services to education. Sue is the CEO of the UK’s subject association for Physical Education, and she is tasked with raising the profile of PE and improving outcomes for young people in all educational settings. This will certainly be a thought-provoking episode. You can connect with Sue directly via X at @suewilkinson13