PE Insights Episode 7: Phil Mathe – Embracing Holistic Physical Education


Welcome to the latest episode review of the PE Insighs podcast, where we dive into meaningful conversations about physical education with Nathan Walker and Phil Mathe. Phil, is a PE teacher with two decades of experience and the author of the book “Happiness Factories: A Holistic Approach to PE.” In his current role he leads on student opportunities at the British International School Riyadh, Phil is embarking on a PhD journey exploring alternative curricula and student outcomes.

Phil’s Educational Journey so Far…

In this episode, Phil reflects on his educational journey, which took a detour into sales before a realisation that he needed to pursue his true passion: physical education. He shares how a transformative conversation with his wife led him to retrain and eventually become a PE teacher.

The Essence of Physical Education

Phil emphasises the importance of physical education beyond traditional sport-focused approaches. Drawing from personal experiences and influences, he highlights the broader significance of PE, emphasising movement, physical literacy, and holistic development. He shares his journey of staying connected to PE, even during his sales career, by staying involved in youth sports coaching.

Holistic Approach to PE

The conversation shifts to Phil’s best-selling book, “Happiness Factories,” offering a unique perspective on PE.

Phil clarifies that the book doesn’t prescribe a one-size-fits-all model but encourages reflection and exploration of holistic approaches to education. The book features contributions from PE teachers globally, providing a platform for their stories and diverse practices.

Global Perspectives on PE

Phil champions the need to appreciate diverse international perspectives on PE, cautioning against assuming that a single approach fits all contexts. He spotlights the work of PE teachers like Anna Shepard, who bring innovative methods like concept-based learning and parkour into their curricula.

Phil’s PhD Journey

With a new role at his school, Phil delves into his motivation for pursuing a Ph.D. in PE, emphasising the need for continued learning and exploration. He envisions exploring PE and alternative provisions globally, acknowledging the evolving nature of the field and the impact on school curriculums.

Impact Beyond Movement

Addressing the broader impact of PE, Phil discusses additional layers like leadership, collaboration, and communication. He advocates for success-driven PE, suggesting that recognising achievements, both physical and holistic, enhances motivation and engagement among students.


In this enlightening conversation, Phil challenges conventional approaches to PE, advocating for a dynamic, context-specific, and holistic perspective. As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of education, Phil’s insights encourage educators to embrace diversity, prioritise student success, and continue evolving in their practice.

About the Guest

Today’s episode is a conversation with Phil Mathe – PE Teacher and leader with 20 years of experience and author of ‘Happiness Factories: A Holistic Approach to Physical Education’. Phil talks us through his philosophy, the key messages of his book, his new PhD challenge, and of course, his takeaway messages for PE teachers around the globe.

You can connect with Phil directly via X at @PhilMathe79_PE

Listen and Connect

To listen to the full episode please follow these links to Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

If you would like to be a guest on the PE Insights Podcast please reach out by contacting us here or reach out to Nathan Walker via X at @NWalkerPE

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