The Challenge of Change in Physical Education: Chelsea College of Physical Education

The Challenge of Change in Physical Education: Chelsea College of Physical Education

The Challenge of Change in Physical Education: Chelsea College of Physical Education

The Challenge of Change in Physical Education: Chelsea College of Physical Education


This text presents a history of PE in specialist women's colleges. Taking Chelsea College as an extended case study, the book looks back at 100 years of social, political and educational development comparing six women's colleges and tracing their impact on PE teaching. The book also looks at the Heads of colleges, the impact on women's rights with regard to training and professional careers, the development of the PE curriculum, and more the diversification of courses such as sports science and leisure studies.


The following narrative describing the history and development of Chelsea College of Physical Education, now the Chelsea School, University of Brighton, during its first 100 years is, of necessity, a selective and in no way exhaustive personal interpretation of factually based information extracted from primary and secondary sources. Nevins (1962) in The Gateway to History wrote, ‘Most historical work, though by no means all of it, is important by virtue of its ideas; that is, its interpretations’. As far as humanly possible, an objective and critical stance has been taken, but with any living institution different interpretations of the same event are inevitably coloured by personal expectations, experience and perceptions.

No one book, and certainly not one examining a century of continuous development, can be a definitive work. There are, for example, unused student records that provide original material for a more sociological based study, or course documents, particularly from 1976, for a more detailed analysis of the curriculum and review of programmes of study currently available at the Chelsea School or material identifying the role and contribution of the Chelsea School within Brighton Polytechnic and the University of Brighton.

This Chelsea case study has been set within the wider context of the specialist women’s physical education colleges. in Women First the Female Tradition in English Physical Education 1880-1980, Sheila Fletcher (1984) opened a new perspective when she examined the work and achievements of the women pioneers, with close reference to the history of Bedford College of Physical Education. She set her work in the wider context of educational history. Colin Crunden (1974) in A History of Anstey College of Physical Education 1897-1972 brought to life the ever changing character of the College. He related its history to wider perspectives of social and professional change which took place in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Albert Pomfret (1985) in Dartford College 1885-1985 recorded the histoiy of the first college specializing in the training of women teachers of physical education. I C Maclean (1976) in The History of Dunfermline College of Physical Education conveyed the unique association of the College with Andrew Carnegie and the developing scene which influenced its progress.

I have attempted to interpret Chelsea’s history through the professional lives of its eight women heads. This biographical approach has been used to reveal and, in some ways, recreate, as vividly as possible, the different personalities and traits of the leaders of the College and the School. It has also been used as a method by which their contributions to the development of Chelsea and its main foci, whether the latter be in physical training, physical education, movement studies, dance, sports science, leisure, recreation, health, teacher training, related vocations, scholarship . . .

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