Health and Physical Education, a period of transition.

“In a world that is constantly changing, education, teaching, and learning cannot remain stagnant.” – Georges Filippousis[1]

Recently there have been a number of changes occurring in the Health and Physical Education landscape at both national and state levels. In 2012, the National Curriculum for Health and Physical Education was proposed and two years later schools begun implementing this as part of version 6.0 of the Australian Curriculum to ensure consistency in the standards and content being taught around the nation. In 2020, the South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) is embarking on some of the most dramatic changes seen in the world of Physical Education in more than 20 years.

Traditionally, Health and Physical Education programs have been tailored towards those with sporting abilities and unless you had a high level of technical and tactical proficiency it was difficult for students to achieve high levels of academic success. As a consequence of this, traditional Health and Physical Education programs disengaged many students from a young age as it limited who was able to experience success and was preparing students with a skillset which the majority of the population is not going to find useful in the workforce. Research suggests that only 0.03% of high school students currently playing basketball will go on to become professional athletes[2].

The restructuring of the senior Physical Education program in South Australia has seen a significant shift away from solely focussing on the development of sport-specific technical and tactical elements, to one which is much broader in its emphasis. It now removes any necessity for students to be highly talented in a range of sporting endeavours, but rather provides students with the opportunity to critically analyse what they are doing. In conjunction with using contemporary technologies in sport and physical activity, students gather evidence of their performances with the aim of improving their own and or their team’s abilities. At Pulteney students have had the ability to use GPS, data collection and video analysis technology similar to those in elite-level professional institutions.

This new senior program that we are currently undertaking here at Pulteney gives greater scope for students to follow their passions in health and physical activity, rather than having the course dictated to them. Only last week in the new Stage 2 Physical Education course, students were investigating the impact of fatigue on sports performances. In the same class, at the same time, there were students shooting basketball free throws, others were setting volleyballs, passing soccer balls, shooting netballs, doing weights and serving tennis balls. This opportunity for students to be self-guided and have a choice in their learning has seen unparalleled levels of inquiry and engagement.

These changes at a senior level has meant that we at Pulteney, are rethinking the way that we approach Health and Physical Education in the younger year levels so that they are prepared for the demands of senior school and beyond. Beginning this year, students in the Preparatory School are being exposed to game types to allow for a greater application of learning across sporting endeavours. It is hoped that this approach will allow for students to transfer their knowledge, understanding and skillsets from one activity to another, develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills and not see sports in isolation where they need to start afresh every term or year, when many sports share comparable key concepts[3].

Similarly, students in the Middle School will experience some changes pertaining to the structure of the Health and Physical Education course they take part in. Initially students in Years 7, 8 and 9 are participating in net and wall divided games, striking and fielding games and invasion games respectively to develop many of the aforementioned characteristics that can be drawn upon for future practical activities inside and outside of school. One of the most significant modifications that has been made in Years 7-10 Health and Physical Education pertains to student achievement and assessment. Assessment of, through and for learning in practical endeavours will see a broader emphasis, where the focus is not solely on one’s ability to perform the skills of a particular sport or activity. Whilst the physical nature of sport will always be central to what is done in Health and Physical Education, this will not be the only focus. Instead, each sport or physical activity will be used as a vehicle to develop sport specific abilities, alongside a range of other skillsets, which will allow them to be successful within Health and Physical Education along with many other academic areas. These include, but are not limited to verbal and non-verbal communication, leadership, teamwork, independence, reflection, initiative and organisation. Further evidence to support these being important skills for students to possess, many of these traits are considered to be highly sought-after employability skills for students entering the workforce from 2020 and into the future[4]

A few select schools in the Eastern states have already adopted a similar approach to the way in which Health and Physical Education is delivered and assessed and has been met with an overwhelming positive response from students and staff. Those associated with Elisabeth Murdoch College in Melbourne’s South East, found that the subject was more engaging, enjoyable and gave greater potential for all students to show development and moreover provide all students with the opportunity to achieve high levels of academic success[5]. With the work already undertaken by the committed Health and Physical Education staff and students at Pulteney, along with what is on the horizon, we are striving to be at the forefront of Health and Physical Education in South Australia and capitalise on this period of transition. In doing so, we will seize the opportunity to be innovative and forward thinking in the way that students learn and develop themselves as people in Health and Physical Education.

If you would like to know more about any of the aforementioned changes to Health and Physical Education at Pulteney in 2020, I would encourage you to speak with your son/daughter or with your child’s Health and Physical Education teacher.

Matt Down

Learning Area Leader – Health, Physical and Outdoor Education

Filippousis, G. (2019). Microsoft Education Blog. [online] Available at:[Accessed 16 Feb. 2020].

Manfred, T. (2012). Here Are The Odds That Your Kid Becomes A Professional Athlete (Hint: They're Small). [Online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Feb. 2020]

Webb, P., Pearson, P. and Forrest G. (2006). Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) in primary and secondary physical education. In primary and secondary physical education, ICHPER-SD International Conference for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport and Dance. [online] Wellington: research-pubs, pages 1-11. Available at: [Accessed 16 Feb. 2020].

Career connect (2020). Develop your employability skills. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Feb. 2020].

Alfrey, L. and O’Connor, J. (2019). How to transform your health and physical education curriculum so all your students have a chance to shine. [online] Available at: