Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education New Zealand

The Transition from Isolated, Rural Contexts to Boarding School - Can School Physical Education and Sport Play a Part?

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education New Zealand

The Transition from Isolated, Rural Contexts to Boarding School - Can School Physical Education and Sport Play a Part?

Article excerpt


This study considers the transition of children from rurally isolated schooling environments to boarding school contexts. There is an assumption that these transitions are often carried out with little fuss. Moreover; there is some evidence to show this transition is beneficial to both child and school. However, contrary data suggest that parents of such children are deeply concerned about this transition from a sport and physical education perspective (Wright et al., 1998). This study attempts to address this under-researched area. Data were gathered using semi-structured interviews with teachers, children and parents in an isolated schooling context, and with teachers and children from a boarding school in a regional Queensland centre. Some videotape data of children in physical education and sporting contexts were also collected. The data indicate that the transition from rural contexts to highly competitive boarding school environments is relatively smooth, with physical education and sport being significant contributors to this process.


Commonly in Australia, rural isolation creates barriers to opportunities and facilities that often are readily available to other children. Some researchers may dispute this, particularly those who feel computer mediated technology will solve the problems of education in isolated contexts (see d'Plesse, 1993, and Stevens and Mason, 1994). However, there is broad acceptance that such isolation does create more disadvantage than is apparent in more urban or regional contexts (NBEET, 1991; Robson, 1993; Scott, 1993). This paper addresses the impact this isolation has on young adolescents with reference to school physical education and sport, as they take the journey into boarding school contexts.

As Australia's landscape absorbs and reflects the urban influences of television and a global look-a-like economy, definitions of 'rural' and 'isolation' that are based on demographic data alone tend to falter. Indeed the NBEET study published in 1991 indicated that there is a distinct lack of uniformity in trying to define 'rural', 'isolated' and `rurally isolated', suggesting that definitions differ according to the needs of agencies seeking to use such definitions. The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines 'rural' as a cluster of people over two hundred and fewer then 1,000. It defines 'isolation' as a cluster of people fewer than two hundred. Many of Australia's one-teacher schools are in such environments. Baker and Milligan (1990, cited in Roe, 1997) describe rural as any provincial centre of significant size, as well as smaller country towns and communities. This study is framed by both definitions.

Leaving home, or boarding away, is a concern that a substantial proportion of Australian parents face as their 12 and 13 year-old sons and daughters move on to attend secondary school. Whilst some data suggest that the highly competitive sporting world present in our boarding schools is suitable for active country children, Wright et al. (1998) that parents are concerned about this transition with particular respect to sport and physical education. Killeen (1999) has expressed similar concerns. This study then focuses on the transitional concerns and experiences children from rurally isolated contexts have with respect to sport and physical education. It is our view that if we can bring together the concerns and experiences of parents and those of their children, then we are heading in the right direction to develop an understanding of how we can aid in the transition process, with respect to sport and physical education. Only following this, would we then be able to effectively facilitate a positive learning experience through school physical education and/or sport.

Review of literature

Rural and remote Australia and educational provision

Sher and Sher (1994) argue that there is a dearth of written material related to rural Australia in terms of policy development, economic policy and in particular educational policy. …

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