collaboration,  Research,  Teacher Reflection

PE Specialist Teachers, PE minutes and more


One on One – 02 by Brian Carson CC BY NC SA

“Sports teachers have a previously unsung role in the academic development of children.” In the July break I came across a number of articles surrounding the published findings of Dick Telford’s research into the effect of having a specialist PE teacher in ES classes.  He and his research team “looked at two things: the effect of physical activity and the value of having specialist physical  in primary school.”

Now, before I tell you the results, let me also tell you that not many schools in our World have the ability to employ a full-time ES PE teacher.  Some districts use a PE teacher across a number of schools to save money and to offer at least 1 class/week with a specialist and for that person to offer some training to other non-PE trained staff so that they feel more able/confident/resourced when teaching PE to their students.  Other schools do not offer this and so students are at the mercy of their class teacher for precious PE minutes.

Dick Telford’s team studied over 800 students in Year 2 (7 year olds) with many medical tests and then re-tested them over the next 4 years til Grade 6.  In 13 of the study schools, the team employed PE teachers to teach two 50-minute classes to the students.  The other 16 schools had PE taught to the students by their classroom teachers.  To add to the mix, Telford’s team also looked at the NAPLAN scores of the students.  NAPLAN is the Australian National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy tests that students take in grades 3,5,7 and 9.

Telford’s research has proved that ”there’s a clear relationship, the fittest schools are the ones which got the best results.”  What he is saying is that by offering a specialist PE teacher to ES students, you can see a direct correlation to fitter students, fitter schools AND better standardised test results.   The study argues that it isn’t extra time that is important but who is actually teaching PE in that time and looking at life long learning over immediate fitness in a 50 min class.  

So, all of this got me to thinking.  My school is lucky enough to have 4 full-time PE teachers, we teach ELC – G12 PE and the number of minutes changes significantly across this time.  Currently our MS kids have 2 x 90 mins a week of PE and our ES have only 1 x 90 mins.  So this got me to thinking about whether my school offers the same amount of time to our ES students as other schools around and if others also have discrepancies in the hours/minutes/lessons offered.   I would like to ask for more time and space to our ES students with either the specialist PE teacher or support the class teachers to feel more confident offering another 45 mins/week to the students.

I would like to ask PE teachers/class room teachers to fill our this survey about their school and PE minutes.  I would also appreciate any studies or books or research papers you have that talks to this theme.  I am in the midst of reading Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J Ratey and I know it will give me more ideas to go with this theme, this book is so interesting and has really inspired me to dig deeper already.  I hope to report back here in due time with findings and further insight into PE and its growing impact on the brains of our students.


  • mhamada

    Mark, thanks for sharing. My understanding is that Telford’s team are talking about the need for trained Educators of Physical movement that have completed their Educational training in Elementary focused courses. Now I also know that there are the athlete-now-coaches around who are in PE classes, and I do see these often overseas where perhaps the school admin has not caught up on current PE practice or the person has been there for a long time and is running the same units/classes they were over 20 years ago. I am connecting with more PE teachers who are Educational specialists first and foremost and who happen to have chosen to work with kids in the physical/health side of curriculum. I agree that being a good player does not necessarily make you a great teacher or coach, but it can and I have met some people who do an admiral job of all three. However, I do believe that we (PE Teachers) are not training Olympic athletes, we are about engaging kids at their level and helping them to move along a continuum to improvement. Does this sound familiar to you?

  • mark Williams

    Hi Mel, Great post. When you talk about trained professionals in PE positions are you talking specifically about teachers who are trained ie having a degree in PHYSED or similar? From working in International Schools I have worked with many PE teachers who while having a great sporting pedigree have no teaching qualifications at all. Now many of these have adapted and become good teachers but many have not and I think this is also a problem for schools. Being a good player/coach does not make you a good teacher especially in modern day PE where teaching skills out of context and playing games for no reason apart from fun has become (hopefully) a distant memory. What are your thoughts and experiences?

  • mhamada

    Hey Doug, thank you for your thoughtful response. I agree that the term trained professional is nicer, and more exact. I would be interested in looking into some more of this topic and it has been widely received on twitter and generated some good conversations so there is a keen crowd who are behind movement, play and fun (or joy as you say) about generating the reasons why we are not seeing more minutes of activity (I would like this to be in PE, but I wouldn’t argue if our admin people just allocated more play time and mins too – not to take anything away from PE…) Will come back here to post the overall results from those that shared.

  • Doug Gleddie

    Thanks for the post Mel – great stuff Time for PE and specialists are two big topics that often we don’t deal with very well. In my little world (Alberta, Canada) we mostly have elementary generalists with minimal PE training and the specialists go to grades 7-12. One quick thought:

    Obviously we need more qualified, trained professionals (I like this term better than specialists…) beside our children. We know this from a health perspective, an academic perspective, a school culture perspective and, most importantly, a HUMAN perspective. To move with joy is to be human (see for more on this). So what is holding us back? I hope to do some research on this in 2014 – I’ll keep you posted! Fitness is important, but it is not the only thing. We need games, movement sense, parkour etc. to motivate and celebrate how our bodies move and what that brings to our lives – not only health!

    Good work Mel – keep it up!


  • Raven Williams

    My name is Raven Williams and I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I plan on being a physical education teacher and I thought this post was very interesting. Especially the part about Telford’s research. I definitely agree that all schools should have a full time specialist PE teacher.

  • Duane Nelson

    Hello, my name is Duane Nelson and I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. This is also a very interesting blog post. It is defiantly a sad thing that many schools cannot afford a full time specialist PE teacher. There are many great points in this post that prove why a school should have a full time PE teacher. The study clearly proves that the class that had the specialist PE teacher and not the regular classroom teacher were in better fitness. Hopefully one day every school will have at least one full time PE teacher. Also I wanted to say Thank You for the reply on PEPLC #1.

    Duane Nelson EDM 310

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