Each year, primary pre-service teachers (PPST’s) graduate from initial teacher education (ITE) and transition into the primary workplace as newly qualified teachers (NQTs). With NQTs expected to be able to hit the ground running delivering the national curriculum, this study explores how prepared PPSTs feel in regards to teaching physical education (PE) and how the primary PE and school sport (PESS) premium funding could be affecting this. The funding has catalysed distinct changes to the PE workforce in primary schools that has also had an effect on the experiences of PPSTs whilst on school placement. In order for schools and ITE to respond and better prepare PPSTs, an understanding of these feelings would be beneficial to promote more effective development towards feeling confident and competent to teach PE.
The study involved 48 participants completing a postgraduate in primary education as they approached the end of their course. Of those participants, 26 were on a generalist pathway, whilst 22 participants were on an ‘additional PE ITE hours or modules’ pathway. The participants were representative of six university’s from around England. Participants completed an online questionnaire based around their thoughts and feelings relating to four key themes. The four key research themes were:
- Continual Professional Development
- Experiences: Prior to starting the course, the majority of PPSTs had taught zero hours of PE, but had observed 1-5 hours of PE. On completion of their PGCE, the majority of PPSTs had taught and observed 1-5 hours of PE.
- Outsourcing: The majority of PPSTs found the use of outsourced coaches to be a benefit to pupils; however, they had mixed feelings regarding the benefits towards teachers.
- ‘Preparedness’: The PPSTs felt that their university contact time on PE was “about right”. The PPSTs ability to use technology within PE was rated as their lowest area of confidence. Activity areas of least confidence were swimming, dance and gymnastics, with a lack of experience being the defining factor.
- Continual Professional Development: Learning technology was found to be the largest CPD need. Observing other teachers/coaches was determined as the most likely method of CPD in their NQT year, whilst engaging in social media was least likely.
It is clear that numerous factors affect how prepared a PPST feels towards teaching PE. Based around the findings related to the four key themes, I encourage action be taken on the following four recommendations:
- The delivery of PE to become the sole domain of the teacher with QTS, a recommendation specified in the APPG (2019) report, but not transpiring into the current day.
- Schools to provide as many experiences in PE for the PPST whilst on placement. With the majority of PPSTs receiving between 1-5 hours, it is no wonder that not all feel very prepared for their NQT year.
- A call for ITE to address their use of technology and improve a PPST’s TPACK.
- Provide additional experiences during ITE around PE, including activity areas outside of games, namely swimming, gymnastics and dance.
Moving forwards, I recommend that we evaluate the effectiveness of primary PE and discuss conceptual models towards future transformative practice, investigating whether a generalist teacher or a specialist primary PE teacher be responsible for delivering PE in the primary school of the future.