How Does The Concept Of Physical Literacy Affect What Is And Might Be The Practice Of Physical Education?

Por: Dominic Haydn-davies.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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The introduction of a national target relating to high quality Physical Education (PE) has provoked discussions within the profession relating to many aspects of implementation. This paper outlines how PE provision based on the concept of Physical Literacy (PL) leads to children learning the skills, attitudes and confidence to participate in lifelong physical activity, a key goal of high quality PE. Based on the work of Whitehead [1] into PL, the paper looks at how this philosophy can be used in a practical PE setting.


The research took place as part of a government funded Best Practice Research scholarship. Interviews and discussion forums with staff involved in the provision of PE took place alongside interviews and practical teaching with a focus group of children, within a rigorous evaluation cycle.


Identified indicators of high quality PE teaching related to attitudes and understanding of how children learn in PE. Preparing children to know how to improve their performance and articulate their understanding, is identified as a key outcome. The teaching and learning of key movement concepts combined with the skills of observation, evaluation, and language development were identified as important in the promotion of lifelong physical activity.

Discussion / Conclusions

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority [2] identification of high quality PE outcomes correspond with Whiteheads’ definition of PL. This study concludes that for PE provision to be considered ‘high quality’ it should actively aim to prepare children to participate in lifelong activity by focusing on skills and attitudes to be used in physical learning outside limited curriculum time. A further conclusion relates to teacher education, with a focus on generic skills and strategies fundamental to learning in PE, rather than activity specific content. The outcomes created by a partnership involving those concerned in the everyday teaching and learning of PE, provide a practical basis for further consideration of the affect the concept of PL could have in the identification of high quality PE.


  1. Whitehead, M. (2001) European Journal of PE, 6, 127-138
  2. Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. (2002) British Journal of Teaching PE, 33:4



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