This post was written by Simon Bradbury @PeBrado.
While many PE teachers I have had conversations with have embraced the theory content of the new GCSE PE specification, the biggest controversy seem to come from the practical element and mainly for two reasons. Firstly, that the practical is now only worth 40% (in the old specification it was worth 60%) and secondly the types of sports that students can be assessed in has drastically been reduced. Previously students had to be assessed in four sports across a minimum of 2 categories and students had over 80 sports or physical activities that they could be assessed in. Now students are assessed in 3 sports, one of which must be a team sport and one of which must be an individual sport. The third sport can either be team or individual. Notice that I write sport rather than physical activity when referring to the new specification as activities such as Circuit Training, Aerobics, SAQ and Personal Survival that have proved extremely popular on the old specification have now been removed, which to an extent I agree with as although they are physical activities they are not sports – however, the course is GCSE Physical Education not GCSE Sport. The biggest disappointment for me is that some of the sports have been taken off such as Rounders and all of the Martial Arts. I currently have an International Kickboxer at my school studying the course but unfortunately he cannot use it as one of his sports, so for the purpose of the course he is focusing on the Boxing side. However, like most of you reading this article I teach at a state comprehensive school and some of the sports are just not accessible particularly with regard to the individual sports. Sports such as Boxing, Canoeing, Diving, Golf, Equestrian, Skiing and Snowboarding are probably not accessible to most students. Sports such as Cycling and Rock Climbing can be expensive for students to pursue outside of school.
So, with this in mind which sports should you focus your lessons on.
Firstly, I think you need to look at the makeup of your cohort. Are students starting the course in year 9 or year 10? Are students in single sex or mixed sex classes? What facilities do you have available to you? How many students do you have in the class? Do you still have core PE lessons with these students that can be turned into GCSE PE lessons? For me these are all questions that you need to think about perhaps before the students have even picked GCSE PE as an option E.g. on the option form you could have a GCSE PE boys class option and a GCSE PE girls class option if you think it is going to be easier to teach the new specification practically in single sex classes.
In terms of size of the class, if you have 24 or more students in a class I would steer clear of racket sports unless you have an 8 court Badminton hall or at least 6 Table Tennis tables. The reason for this is that students need to be playing as the previous roles of official, coach, organiser and choreographer have now gone and if you have only have a four court Badminton sports hall like most schools probably do then you can only have 16 students playing properly at any one time. The same applies to Tennis and Table Tennis. I think Table Tennis you can see real progress if all students are playing singles and developing their game but with a class of 24 you would need 12 Table Tennis tables.
In terms of team sports I would look at sports where the skills are transferable such as Netball, Basketball and Handball. Netball has been proven very popular with my male students in the past even if they have played Basketball or not. Obviously Basketball and Handball you would need to have the facilities inside and again with Handball ideally you are going to want more than 2 goals. I think Handball is going to be a popular sport to be assessed in the early years of the new specification, but I would encourage you to check out @LeeA1990 blog here before you start. I also think Volleyball will be a popular option too.
For students who excel at striking and fielding games their only option is now Cricket so it will be interesting to see if PE departments change their curriculum at KS3 to mirror that of GCSE PE. Will Rounders fixtures be replaced by girls Cricket fixtures? Personally I don’t think so. For me, the disadvantage with Cricket is again the cost but also the time that is required within a lesson to pad students up. Again, it would help if you had a number of Cricket nets rather than just one or two. In the main I think your team sports will come from Football, Rugby, Netball, Handball, Volleyball and Basketball.
In terms of individual sports, I think Athletics will be a popular choice as will Swimming. However, Swimming depends on whether you have access to a pool or not, which again for the majority of schools this is probably not going to be the case and with a number of public Swimming pools shutting this could prove difficult to access. I would imagine Trampolining will be more popular than Gymnastics and if you have an all girls class than Dance could be an option. I think the individual sports could be a sticking point for a lot of students because if they are not Athletes, Swimmers or racket players their options are very limited.
These are obviously just my opinions and some of you will agree with what has been written and some of you will not and that is the beauty of our profession. What I will say is that with the new specification it has never been more evident that students are going to have to play sport outside of school and to a good level. Do any PE departments advertise GCSE PE and tell the students they will just be focusing on these 4 or 5 sports over the course? How long do students spend on a particular sport before moving on? As always I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this.