“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.