As of the late 1960s PE had been trying to develop the curriculum and in 1972 this was mirrored in Curriculum Paper 12 – ‘Physical Education in Secondary Schools’. At this time certification and assessment were not yet considered (Fryer, 1986). However in 1980 plans for an introduction of a new system of curriculum and assessment for 3rd and 4th years of secondary schooling were presented, encouraged by the recommendations in the Munn and Dunning committees.
The Munn committee established 8 modes of activity within the curriculum of which physical activity was one. This was part of the core and additional options structure (Fryer, 1986). The Dunning committee recommended that all pupils should be given the right to take part in courses that could lead to the Scottish Certificate of Education and that exams and assessment by teachers should depict the awards achieved. These awards would be at three different levels: Credit, General and Foundation (The Scottish Office, 1996).
Fryer (1986) contends that the introduction of this structure helped PE to re-consider its teaching practices and system of assessment for certification. These recommendations for the change in the PE curriculum from the Munn and Dunning report were set in motion by the first Thatcher government, where a small group of policy individuals set about developing a suitable certificated course (McGowan, 1993). In 1984 PE was certificated and came under the title of Standard Grade in Scotland.
Standard Grade PE (SGPE) held the idea that PE was now educationally respectable and it began to enhance the status of the teachers. It was now seen by others as an entry into the world of testing, exams, knowledge and understanding, thus implying intellectual activity and serious academic study (McGowan, 1993). The SGPE course contained a large element of coursework concerned with the acquisition of knowledge and understanding of facts, concepts and principles about the activities studied, about how skills are learned and performed and about the body and how it works.
All of these elements began to give PE an air of intellectual and educational rigour and importance (McGowan, 1993). PE teachers were now starting to use the same kind of language as their colleagues when talking about course moderation, examinations, estimates, assessments and assignments. On Tuesday 31st May 1994 2,288 students from 116 presenting centers sat the first examination in performance for Higher Grade PE (HGPE) (Turley, 2001). HGPE was established as the next level of certificated education in PE and is offered to students at 5th year level.
The Scottish Universities Council on Entrance (SUCE) approved HGPE for the purposes of the general entrance requirements of its constituent Universities, this also added to the status of the educational aptitude of PE. It was important that HGPE was equivalent to HG courses in other subjects as an entry to University. This of course was especially important to parents and pupils when deciding particular subjects to pursue. Teachers pushed the practical vs academic battle (Watkins, 1991).
Improved standards were a major difference between SGPE and HGPE and to achieve this students must acquire understanding of concepts, assess and appraise both processes and product. Thus, the activities selected in HGPE are the focus for learning rather than a vehicle for learning as in SGPE. In short, HGPE allows a more in depth study to PE. In order to gain an award at HGPE two activities are selected for the students, decided as a result of consultation, which has to be balanced against the expertise, facilities and resources available at individual schools.
Assessment is internal with external moderation. Caroll (1994) has suggested that this move towards a certificated PE curriculum did mean that PE became more centrally involved in the functions of the school, moving from a more marginal role to a more central one. However, as a result, it also meant involvement in the ideologies of assessment and lost its sense of freedom, accepting external control in order that there is a clarity of role, personal development for teachers and possibly even the survival of the subject.
The development of nationally recognized forms of assessment and certification did, according to Reid (1996), finally settle the problem of marginal status of PE in relation to other academic subjects. Kirk and Tinning (1990) believe that PE finally demonstrated that it was an educationally worthy subject when it demonstrated its scientific basis. They may then believe that the certification of PE led it to become a more scientific subject and that this is the reason that it is worthy of intellectual pursuit.
As can be seen from this essay there have been many changes in physical education since 1945. These changes have most notably been down to changes in the curriculum and this occurred due to the ever-rising argument that PE was not an educationally significant subject. Before 1945 PE was more about play and building ones character through this play. Since this period, PE moved to become more to do with the philosophy of movement and more aesthetic qualities began to surface, especially with the introduction of Swedish gymnastics and the beliefs of many female physical educators.
PE has also seen changes towards a more scientific subject with the introduction of male teachers who believed that PE was more than just movement and creativity and that it should have some form of competition. One theme of these changes that has been noted throughout has been the ever-changing status of PE. It seems from the literature that PE has always had a certain stigma attached to it that it has tried so hard to shed.
An important change within this context then was the certification of the subject and its resulting educational significance in the school curriculum. The Munn and Dunning report being the main benefactor of this change. The later introduction of the higher grade structure also enhanced PE’s status and gave it significance as an entrance into University. All these changes have led PE to the subject that it is at present, however without a few of these changes it is hard to say whether there would be an education to be had in PE.