This article identifies significant developments in the history of the school sector of physical education in New Zealand. It covers the period from the first Education Act of 1877 to the introduction of the new Curriculum Statement in Health and Physical Education in 1999. Each item is covered briefly to indicate the range and diversity of events of particular interest. The items identified show clearly the early influence of British syllabi, British and American people but also included are references to indigenous developments such as Te Reo Kori and Bursaries physical education. In all, twelve items are described which portray (briefly) the work of key individuals whose commitment, energy and drive brought about important changes.
The events described in this essay could be referred to as landmarks in the history of New Zealand physical education, especially in the school sector. I have chosen these events because they were innovative or challenging as well as being noteworthy in influencing change. It should be noted however, that this selection is not exhaustive and several other worthy items could have been included. The order is chronological rather than hierarchical but each event is a product of its time and is special in its own right, moulded by prevailing attitudes and shaped by personalities, politics and resources.
The 1877 Education Act
This Act (Campbell, 1972) created, among other things, the Department of Education, established twelve Education Boards, confirmed the system of school inspectors, determined the subjects of the primary curriculum and declared that primary education in New Zealand should be:
'free, secular and compulsory" (Campbell, 1972).
It was a profoundly influential piece of legislation with long lasting implications.
In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic (and English grammar, English composition, geography, history, elementary science, drawing, object lessons, vocal music and sewing and needlework for girls) the Act specified that provision should be made for the instruction of boys in military drill. The Act also stated that in schools that the Boards from time to time would determine, physical training should be provided. Provision for a playground of at least a quarter acre was recommended.
These provisions enabled Education Boards to employ people with military experience to teach military drill in schools. It also resulted in military marching, bands with fife and drum and sergeant majors in staff rooms. The advent of the Boer War (1889-1902) resulted in a fervour of military activity and the development of cadet and junior cadet companies in schools. Major Loveday was appointed to the Department of Education (1899) to manage this eruption of patriotism. By 1907 there were 280 registered companies, 14,000 enrolments and 14,000 wooden rifles had been issued to schools (Stothart, 1974).
A more enlightened approach to physical education was not achieved until 1912 when Royd Garlick was appointed Director of Physical Education within the Department of Education. Nevertheless, the 1877 Act provided the foundation for physical training and later on, physical education, to become integral components of the curriculum. It was our first peg in the ground.
The Development of a Professional Association (from 1936)
Practitioners of physical education have frequently felt that their area of expertise is not always accorded the recognition that they believe it deserves. To overcome this perceived discrepancy, teachers in Otago, Wellington, Canterbury and Auckland had established `ad hoc' district associations during 1936 to bring teachers of physical education together. Eventually this activity led to a meeting in Wellington, in May 1937, where the New Zealand Physical Education Society was established. The promotion of physical education and the provision of further training for members were compelling reasons to form a national association. Alexander Gillies (later Sir Alexander) addressed the inaugural meeting and was elected as Patron of the new organisation, a position he held until his death in 1982.
The Society introduced examinations for members and published a Bulletin (the forerunner of the present Journal of Physical Education New Zealand) edited by Philip and Olive Smithells.
By 1967 it was thought advantageous to change the name of the organisation to the New Zealand Association of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (NZAHPER). Members thought that the new structure would more effectively cater for the emerging profession of recreation and the title was almost identical to kindred organisations in America, Canada and Australia.
A further change of name took place in 1993 when NZAHPER became Physical Education New Zealand (PENZ). The reasons for change were various but foremost among them was the view that recreation professionals had formed their own professional body and health educators were in the process of doing the same thing. It was argued that a specific focus of physical education would strengthen the professional organisation and provide increased benefits to members.
Throughout the life of the Physical Education Society, NZAHPER and PENZ, the primary focus has been on the provision of services to members through inservice training, examinations, advocacy, publications and resource development. Jump Rope for Heart has been conducted in association with the National Heart Foundation and major international conferences have been staged in conjunction with the 1974 and 1990 Commonwealth Games. PENZ is currently a strong professional organisation, growing in membership and increasing its broad range of services to members'.
The Learner Swimming Pool 1939
The first learner swimming pool (in primary schools) was installed at Cornwall Park School in Auckland in 1939. The pool resulted from the combined enthusiasm of the school principal Jake Fawcett, Ken Reid, senior organiser of physical education in the Auckland Education Board and a smidgen of 'kiwi' ingenuity in the form of the Hume Pipe Company. Fawcett had the site, Reid the entrepreneurial flair and Hume Pipe had the concrete curing tanks, which were easily converted to make the first pool (Spanhake & Stothart, 1997).
Reid refined this original idea and the pool evolved as a shallow, quadrangular tank with a handrail at water level, ideal for teaching swimming in. Schools could obtain subsidies to assist with the building of the pools and over the next two decades more that 1000 pools were built throughout New Zealand and several were built in Australia. From this innovation came developments in small pool filtration, an 'L'shaped learner pool for teaching children with disabilities and a structured coherent programme of instruction.
The Appointment of Philip Ashton Smithells 1939
Philip Smithells was appointed to the position of Superintendent of Physical Education in the Department of Education at the age of 29, in 1939. It was an inspired appointment (officially made by Dr C.E. Beeby, Assistant Director of Education), as Smithells was to exert a strong sense of purpose on New Zealand physical education over the next three decades (Stothart, 1992). Smithells was a graduate of Cambridge University, the son of a professor and multi-talented. He was also youthfully enthusiastic, energetic and personable. He brought with him to the young colony, new ideas about physical education gathered from perceptive observation of programmes in Sweden, Germany and other parts of Europe. He was also well versed in the contemporary thinking about physical growth and development, coming into vogue in schools in England.
He introduced Syllabus of physical training for schools (1933), from England, (during the 1940's) appointed staff, re-introduced extra training for physical education advisers to schools and advocated that girls should wear rompers for physical education. He wrote regularly in the Education Gazette, took refresher courses throughout the country, introduced several pieces of equipment and generally provided the confident leadership that the subject desperately needed during the war years.
Throughout his period in the Department of Education, Smithells had the support of Dr Beeby in introducing what was often referred to as the 'new' physical education. Large intakes of specialist teachers of physical education were trained in Dunedin and Auckland teachers colleges and these people helped to promote the robust activities of Syllabus of physical training for schools (1933). It was an unprecedented period of development in New Zealand physical education.
Smithells served nearly a decade in the Department of Education and was then appointed Director of the newly established School of Physical Education set up by the University of Otago (1948-1970). In this role Smithells influenced generations of students with his humanistic approach (as distinct from a scientific approach) to preparing teachers for physical education positions in secondary schools.
The Thomas Report 1942
The policy that flowed from the Thomas Report (Department of Education, 1942) provided the foundations for secondary education over the next few decades. School certificate was introduced and the 'core' curriculum of the secondary school was specified. Physical education, along with English, social studies, general science, mathematics, music, arts and crafts comprised the 'core' that would become part of every student's experience. It is interesting to note that health education and sex education were included under the general physical education heading.
The Thomas Report (Department of Education, 1942) advocated for properly trained specialists in secondary schools:
"It is essential, we think, that the status, salaries, and opportunities for promotion of physical education specialists should not be inferior to those of teachers in other subjects". (p.48)
It was this emphasis, advocated by Philip Smithells, while representing the Department of Education on a sub-committee of the Thomas Committee, that led, in part, to the establishment of the School of Physical Education at the University of Otago.
Margaret Erlanger's Visit, 1953
Folk dancing has always been a part of the New Zealand physical education syllabus. Even the much maligned Renfrew White syllabus The Growing Body (White, 1932), included dance activities. The advent of modern dance, however, is more recent. The most significant development in the introduction of modern dance for teachers was the year that Fullbright scholar, Margaret Erlanger spent attached to the School of Physical Education, University of Otago, in 1953.
Erlanger was a leading exponent of dance in education and associated with her during 1953 were Margaret Dunbar and Annette Golding. Dunbar was in the physical education branch of the Department of Education, responsible for secondary girl's programmes and was ideally placed to promulgate Erlanger's teachings. Golding, formerly a physical education organiser, was appointed to the staff of the School of Physical Education and taught generations of students the fundamentals of dance.
Dunbar's successor in `head office' was Robin Newick, a graduate from the School of Physical Education and one of the first New Zealanders to complete a Masters degree in dance (Utah). Newick was a passionate advocate for dance in education. One of Golding's proteges was John Casserley who became a professor of dance in America and an occasional choreographer for the New Zealand Ballet. Golding further influenced the development of dance in education by taking a position at Wellington Teachers College (1965) where she taught trainee teachers.
The Dudley Wills Era 1948-1970
Dudley Wills succeeded Philip Smithells as Superintendent of Physical Education in the Department of Education (1948) and whereas Smithells had been philosophical, urbane and effusive Wills was pragmatic, assertive and industrious. He gathered around him specialist staff who provided leadership for the physical education advisers, and they took responsibility for co-ordinating a variety of publications and teaching aids. A good idea developed in Auckland, for example, would be quickly disseminated throughout New Zealand by cyclostyled newsletter or through the regular visits of Wills or his staff.
Head office became the clearing house for ideas for the teaching of physical education and from its staff came the promotion of playground climbing equipment, outdoor education, modern dance, swimming pool chlorination, programmes for people with disabilities, recreation guidance and encouragement of Maori physical education. The staff (during the 1960's) included, Nancy Romans, infant programmes; Jack Rothwell, boys secondary; Margaret Dunbar and Robin Newick, girls secondary; Frank Mahoney and Ian Reid, photographers; Margaret Campbell, children with disabilities and general programmes (Stothart, 1991).
The 1960's were the zenith of the head office influence and the related work of the advisory staff throughout New Zealand. Major educational reports such as Currie (1962), Picot (1989), and Lough (1990) were however, influential in reducing the number of physical education advisory staff and hence the effectiveness of the advisory service (Stothart, 1996).
The Infant Handbook 1955
The Physical Education Handbook, Infant Division (Department of Education, 1955) (e.g. years I to 3) was the first glossy, post war, hardback physical education publication collated by New Zealand teachers. It was an attractive, well-illustrated book, with diagrams and photographs but perhaps more significantly, it provided teachers with prepared lessons for each level of the junior school. It was issued to every school by the Department of Education and was well received by teachers as a useful teaching manual.
Nancy Romans was the principal writer and collator of the handbook and she became its most vigorous advocate as she took refresher courses for teachers in all parts of New Zealand. The Introduction confidently asserts (Infant Handbook, 1955):
"The aim of physical education, or education through movement, is therefore basically the same as for other forms of education, namely, to make the greatest possible contribution to the growth and development of the individual. The differences between physical education and general education lie only in the means used. The former is concerned largely with responses obtained through vigorous activity. Since these responses involve the whole organism, they contribute to the development of the whole personality. "(p.5)
The handbook advocated that 15 to 20 minute lessons should be taken every day and anecdotal evidence suggests that the regularity of physical education lessons in the junior primary school was greater than that of the senior school.
The Introduction of Three Year Teacher Training During the 1960's
Until the early 1960's, teacher training for the primary service consisted of two years in a teachers college followed by a probationary teaching year. Three-year teacher training was introduced college by college during the 1960's and as a result, physical education courses were lengthened and enhanced. In reality, courses were written and re-written for approval by the Department of Education. Employment opportunities expanded in the colleges for physical education lecturers and many staff were recruited from the ranks of the advisory service and in some cases, from overseas. Programmes of study were more like university courses and students had the opportunity to examine the subject in both depth and diversity. Library resources improved, equipment was expanded, (especially in the field of exercise science), and many of the new appointees embarked on improving their qualifications.
The outcomes of these changes saw a depleted advisory service, better qualified staff in the teachers colleges, more in-depth 'academic' programmes and enhanced student learning. Some staff took opportunities to write for professional journals, to contribute to conferences and in other ways to provide leadership and stimulation for the profession. It was a time of increasing professional maturity.
The Commonwealth Games Conference 1974
Associated with the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, the New Zealand profession organised an international conference (led by Canterbury NZAHPER members) at Lincoln College of Agriculture. This was the first international physical education conference held in New Zealand and it indicated that the profession had a contribution to make at the international level of debate and scholarly inquiry. Contributors to the conference included Philip Smithells, Peter McIntosh, Brian Sutton-Smith, Dudley Wills, Alister McDonald, Gerald Kenyon, Bob Larkin, Peter Macpherson, Beverley Ross, Les Williams, Bob Stothart, Jim Hay, Stan Brown and Bruce Howe.
The conference was summed up by Jan Bolwell (1974) who commented:
"...as a young physical educator, I am happy to say that my faith in this profession has found reaffirmation in the excellence and profound depth of some of the addresses which we have listened to over the past few days. "(p. 145)
She also noted perceptively (Bolwell, 1974):
"...we have yet to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable problems of finding a balance between (1) the laboratory and the gymnasium, (2) professionalism and amateurism, (3) academic respectability and curricular freedom." (p.145)
Te Reo Kori 1987
The term `te reo kori' is relatively recent but interest in the games and physical activities of Maori is not. Philip Smithells was fascinated by what he saw on visits to Maori schools and he encouraged his staff to collect examples of hand games, string games, haka and action songs and send them to him. Colin Spanhake took up this challenge and recorded a variety of games and pastimes he observed while working with Henare Toka (Ngati Porou) during the 1940's (Stothart, 1996, b).
Smithells claims that he was thanked on a marae by Dr Mahara Winiata, sometime in the 1950's for rescuing many games and pastimes from being lost.
Smithells comments (Stothart, 1996a):
"1942-46 our field staff was particularly active in rescuing games and rhythmical activities from oblivion. They found that the children knew few games, their parents hardly knew any but it was the grandparents who were the real sources of games and activities. I think it is to the credit of our profession that we were possibly the first predominantly Pakeha group in New Zealand that ever made it explicit that the Maori had something to teach the Pakeha. "(p. 18)
Smithells published a series of articles on Maori dances, hakas and games in the Education Gazette during the 1940's and following those articles various cyclostyled notes were distributed to schools. Smithells and his successor in the Department of Education, Dudley Wills, regularly recruited Maori students from teachers colleges for `third year' training in physical education. In 1972 School Publications produced Games and Dances of the Maori (Department of Education, 1972), as part of the physical education `games series'. But it was not until the Physical education syllabus for junior classes to form 7 (Department of Education, 1987a) that te reo kori became an integral and significant component of New Zealand physical education.
Supporting the Physical education syllabus for junior classes to form 7 (Department of Education, 1987a) the Department published, Physical Education: A Guide for Success (Department of Education, 1987b) and te reo kori was included along with fitness, ball activities movement and dance, education outside the classroom, aquatics, athletics and gymnastics.
This gave rise to several conferences, especially Wellington based ones, which promoted te reo kori. In 1994, Ralph Walker delivered a keynote address at the Dunedin based Physical Education New Zealand conference on the theme of te reo kori (Walker, 1995). Walker has been a leading advocate for te reo kori, along with Ra Kohere, (during the revision of the syllabus in 1987), and more recently, Andy Fraser and Alice Durbridge. Teaching resources have been produced and refresher courses, to up-grade teachers' competence and confidence, have been held throughout New Zealand.
Unfortunately, this momentum to recognise the movement skills of indigenous people was not fully embraced when Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1999) was published. Teachers of physical education throughout New Zealand had recognised Te reo kori as being worthy of significant status, during the development of the curriculum statement but, as all such statements are official government documents, politicians of the day were sufficiently nervous about Te reo kori, that they asked that its prominence be reduced. Te reo kori accordingly, was not ranked alongside mental health, sexuality education, food and nutrition, body care and physical safety, physical activity, sport studies and outdoor education as a Key Area of Learning. Despite te reo kori not being given the status of a key area of learning Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1999) specifically recognises its importance.
"In recognising New Zealand's unique bicultural heritage, physical activity embraces nga mahi a rehia (Maori recreational and leisure activities, including te reo kori). The activities of rehia develop physical and mental fitness and co-ordination in appropriate Maori contexts that have their own customs and protocol. These activities are unique to Aotearoa and foster knowledge, traditions, and movement skills from the past along with adapted contemporary movements skills, using poi, rakau, and whai. Students may also learn more advanced skills, such as those required for a complex poi performance, haka, or mau rakau using taiaha, under the tuition of experts from within the school or the wider community." (p.42)
Bursaries Physical Education 1989
In 1989 the Universities Entrance Board granted bursaries status to physical education and the following year 42 secondary schools offered bursaries programmes on a trial basis (Grant, 1991). Gaining bursaries status is arguably the most significant change in secondary physical education since the inclusion of physical education as part of the 'core' secondary curriculum following the policy recommendations of the Thomas Report (Department of Education, 1942).
Cassidy (1996) asserts:
"The development of UBPE can be largely attributed to Mike Murtagh who saw it as a vehicle to implement reforms. Murtagh claims that the initial enthusiasm shown by the physical education curriculum development officer, Grant Jones, and the university representative, Bevan Grant, and then the entire working party, was decisive in physical education being chosen to develop a course at University Bursaries level. " (p.5)
By 1994 there were 233 secondary schools (3,600 students) enrolled in university bursaries physical education programmes clearly indicating that the programme was popular with teachers and students at the senior level. The level of interest has increased and in 1999, student numbers had risen to 4243. (Grant, 2000)
The programme consists of eight modules with the Lifestyles Concepts module being compulsory. Students are required to complete two other modules from a choice of seven options: Movement Education; Outdoor Education; Aquatics; Dance; Te Reo Kori; Leisure Studies and Sports Education. The unique feature of this programme is the absence of formal, written examinations, which typify other bursary subjects. All student work is graded using an achievement based assessment system.
Health & Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum Statement 1999
At the threshold of the new millennium, Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1999) is our most recent peg in the ground. The document emerged from the Ministry of Education's process of contracting writers to produce curriculum statements in accord with the established The New Zealand Curriculum Framework (Ministry of Education, 1993). In this case, the writers were Ian Culpan and Gillian Tasker of Christchurch College of Education. It was their task to co-ordinate the views of practitioners throughout the country, to write and re-write, to distil information from published literature and to produce a statement which was politically acceptable, professionally visionary, robust and relevant. The appropriateness of the ideas contained in the statement will be tested over the next few years. May it serve to sustain physical education as a vibrant component of the total curriculum.
These events represent pegs in the ground for a curriculum area not always favoured by curriculum designers, educational decision-makers or the general public. Pioneers, innovators dreamers and risk takers have contrived, over time, to change the ways things are done for the enduring benefit of physical education and hence, the young people of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Present day practitioners are the beneficiaries of this collective vision. May the next pegs be as firmly placed.
For a full discussion of the developments and achievements of the Physical Education Society, NZAHPER and PENZ, see Journal of Physical Education New Zealand, volume 30, no 4, 1997, with contributions from Bob Stothart, Sam Lewis, Les Bayly, Des Brough and Bevan Grant.
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