Stepping up PE for student wellbeing
23 May 2023

Students are developing healthy habits for life,
Writes Cara Jenkin.

Forget running laps around the oval or learning to play a different sport each month, physical education classes are now more inspiring and collaborative for students, as schools aim to develop young people who are engaged with lifelong physical activity. Schools are equipping students with the necessary tools to lead healthy lifestyles, by not just learning the rules of a sport and methods to increase fitness, but the principles of valuing movement and health literacy.

Westbourne Grammar School deputy principal Teagan Collins says wellbeing is increasingly being incorporated across the curriculum to create happy, healthy, engaged and resilient students, and that physical education is an important component.

“We feel in an increasingly complex environment for our young people it is critical we assist them in developing skills to cope with life’s challenges and flourish, and that’s not only physical but all dimensions of health and wellbeing,” she says.

Teaching fundamental movement skills and game-based tactics is still part of physical education, and have broader applications through life, Collins says. “It could mean playing a social game of golf or netball with their family or friends or coaching their younger sibling’s local sporting team.

“There are many rich connections to not only physical health but social health and wellbeing as well as to the community. The recreational element of physical education is critically important, particularly with an ageing population.

“We need to be able to access age and stage appropriate ways of being physically active, so having that as a key education piece in school for our students to access later in life is imperative.” It also means that students who are not so interested in physical activity are encouraged to give their best, rather than be the best.

As well as participating, students are required to research, analyse, apply and develop their health and physical education knowledge. For example, year 7 students this year were tasked with adapting an enjoyable yet sedentary activity from their life into a physical class activity, identifying new ways to be more physically active.

Collins says competition still needs to be a factor; however recognition and reward should remain age and stage appropriate for students.

Fintona Girls’ School encourages students regardless of their ability to engage in physical education and join sporting teams. Participation improves fitness and overall enjoyment of being active, and supports camaraderie.

Physical Education learning leader Sarah Bell says the curriculum also aims to help students develop and apply strategies to maintain a positive outlook. “Physical education classes can help relieve stress and anxiety in students,” she says.

“In junior school PE classes, students develop both personal and prosocial skills such as co-operation, decision-making, persistence and problem solving. In our senior school, the focus for students is to have opportunities through movement to consolidate personal and prosocial skills including collaboration, communication, decision-making, leadership, problem solving and persistence.”

While its PE classes cover a range of sports, swimming is a strong focus for prep to year 7 students to ensure they gain this important life skill. Rowing is also an important part of Fintona’s sporting culture, with its Learn to Row program held for all year 8 students during term three PE classes. “Rowing is a unique sport that requires individual determination and demands a high level of teamwork,” Bell says.