Health and physical education: transformative potential, propositions and pragmatics

Document Type

Book Chapter


Australian Curriculum Studies Association

Place of Publication

ACT, Australia


School of Education




Penney, D. (2018). Health and physical education: transformative potential, propositions and pragmatics. In Reid, A., & Price, D. (Ed.), The Australian curriculum: promises, problems and possibilities (pp. 103-114). ACT, Australia: Australian Curriculum Studies Association. Available here


THE AUSTRALIAN CURRICULUM: Health and physical education (AC: HPE) (ACARA, 2016b) has endeavored to establish foundations for a 'futures-oriented' curriculum to be enacted in schools across Australia. The first part of the chapter explores the ways in which this vision has been embedded in the official AC: I-IPE text and considers the opportunities for it to be taken forward in units of work, learning activities and assessment tasks that students experience as the AC: HPE. Secondly, the chapter brings historical and contemporary curriculum perspectives together to highlight that the structure of the AC: HPE amounts to a compromise that supports the maintenance of notably varied approaches to I-IPE curriculum planning across state and territory jurisdictions, and between schools. In particular, I identify that the AC: HPE has legitimated a subject-based segregation of skills, knowledge and understandings in the interpretation, appropriation and enactment of the new curriculum. In contrast, it also endorses the pursuit of more integrated approaches to curriculum design in HPE. The third section of the chapter extends the discussion to address the other organisations, services and products associated with sport and health that are an integral part of the 'policyscape' (Appadurai, 1990, cited in Ball, 1998) of the HPE curriculum in Australia, and influential in shaping the enactment of the AC: HPE. In conclusion, the chapter returns to the vision behind the AC: HPE and the curriculum possibilities that it presents for HPE. From a theoretical perspective, I will draw on conceptualisations of curriculum policy advanced by Ball et al. (2012) and Connelly and Connelly (2013). I use the language of 'enactment' throughout (in preference to talk of implementation) to align with Ball et al.'s (2012) emphasis on the need for conceptualisations of teachers' engagement with policy that foreground the complex mix of creativity, originality and constraint, all of which feature in readings of and responses to official texts such as the AC: HPE.

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