Physical Education. A history of violence

Archive hour. Radio 4 Saturday 8.00 – 9.00 p.m. February 9th 2019

I was contacted by telephone in November 2018 by a producer from the BBC – Tamsin Hughes, about the possibility of my contributing to this programme. Contact had been made initially via the IPLA website. After a fairly long conversation it was agreed that she and the programme presenter Matthew Sweet would come over to Cambridge to interview me. This they did at the beginning of December 2019. Prior to this meeting they requested a range of material, such as a copy of Physical Literacy throughout the Lifecourse and some of my papers.

The interview, in my house, took about 75 minutes. Firstly they were interested in key experiences and milestones in my career history. They then shared with me their knowledge and views on the nature of physical education over the last two centuries. As I am not a historian my contribution was somewhat anecdotal, but I did direct them to a range of sources from which they could become better informed. They then questioned me about physical literacy, where it came from and how and why I developed the concept. They also quizzed me about my vision for the future. I was nervous about how they would use my contribution but was told that it was their decision what and how they used any comments from me. I had hoped to hear the programme before it was broadcast – but that did not happen! In fact they did send me a copy earlier in the day on February 9th but as I had not been alerted to this possibility I did not pick this up until after the event!

I was unaware to whom they were to speak thereafter; I was the first person the interviewed for the programme and so I was intrigued to hear the range of contributors to the programme. Please note that this programme reflects on the state of PE in UK.

This is a valuable programme to listen to as it covers, inter alia, the :-

  • Influence of the military on PE teaching
  • Power of the Public Schools re PE Teaching
  • The expectation that PE will solve the ills of a society
  • Persistent requirement to concentrate on competitive team games
  • Scant esteem in which PE teachers have been held
  • Very different backgrounds of male and female teachers, not least in relationship to training and to significant influences. (E.g. Laban and women teachers)
  • Way PE has been represented in literature , films and TV over the years
  • Reasons why so many people do not continue with physical activity when they leave school.
  • Urgent need for the profession to re-present its image
  • Equally urgent need to explain physical literacy to as many people as possible.

Margaret Whitehead