Bailey, Richard, Morley, David and Dismore, Harriet
Talent development in physical education: a national survey of policy and practice in England
Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 14, (1), . (doi:10.1080/17408980701712007).
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Background: although there has been a great deal of research on talent development in sport and education, there has been a distinct lack of research on developing talent specifically in a curricular physical education context. Yet, all schools in England are expected to identify and support their talented pupils.
Purpose: in order to investigate the ways in which schools identify and support talented pupils in physical education, a national (English) survey was conducted. The survey aimed to establish a clear picture of current policy and practice in secondary school curricular physical education by obtaining specific information concerning talent identification, provision and support of very able pupils.
Participants and setting: a questionnaire was administered to a large sample of physical education subject leaders, which resulted in an unusually representative achieved sample (N = 535).
Data collection: data were collected using a questionnaire, from which broad generalisations could be made about talent development practices. The questionnaire sought both quantitative and qualitative data related to school and department policies, identification and provision strategies, department staff expertise and professional development experiences.
Data analysis: analyses of quantitative data were conducted using a data analysis software package (SPSS 12.0 for Windows) and qualitative analyses used a quasi-statistical approach. Employing a combination of quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis tools ensured that patterns and trends could be identified and allowed the opportunity for individual schools to illustrate specific examples relating to their own experiences and circumstances.
Findings: the findings reveal that schools draw on an extremely varied range of strategies to identify and develop their talented pupils in physical education. Although the majority of schools appear to have developed a whole school and departmental policy for developing talent, there was a strong indication that a whole school policy was a significant driving force for designing a policy at department level. The majority of subject leaders claimed to identify talented pupils according to their current levels of achievement, whilst only a small percentage based identification upon students' potential to achieve. The most common criteria for assessment were reported to be performance in school sport and club sport. A key finding was that the majority of subject leaders indicated that the main area of expertise for staff was games activities, which may have significance if teachers feel better able to identify talented pupils in areas in which they themselves have expertise. Overall, the findings suggest that the effectiveness and equity of these strategies may be compromised by a lack of policy direction, an uneven distribution of staff expertise (in favour of games activities) and a lack of focused professional development.
Conclusion: the paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings, suggesting that instances of good practice need to be highlighted and widely disseminated, and detailed guidance should be made available to all schools, if effective and equitable talent development practices are to be properly adopted within physical education departments
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