Skip to main content

Educating for Equitable Health Outcomes- the Promise of School Health and Physical Education

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EDUHEALTH (Educating for Equitable Health Outcomes- the Promise of School Health and Physical Education)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-12-31

School Health and Physical Education (HPE) has the potential to make a unique contribution to the physical, cognitive, emotional and social development of young people. The world summit on HPE in 1999 stated that this school subject can provide the most effective means of providing all young people, regardless of their ability, disability, sex, age, culture, race, ethnicity, religion, or social background, with the skills, attitudes, knowledge, and understanding for lifelong health and well-being. Despite such potential, the way HPE is currently taught and conceptualised in some schools and countries does not provide all students with equal opportunities to achieve these goals. Indeed, research worldwide continues to show how certain HPE practices reward students based on gender, sexuality, bodies, ethnicity and religion, and contribute to inequality and discrimination by putting students into either privileged or marginalised positions.
The overall goal of the ‘Education for Equitable Health Outcomes - The Promise of School Health and Physical Education’ (EDUHEALTH) project is to make a meaningful contribution to promote physical activity and health for all citizens. EDUHEALTH is a collaboration between three universities in Sweden, Norway and New Zealand focusing on social justice in HPE. Sweden, Norway and New Zealand are somewhat unique in that socially-critical perspectives and social justice issues foreground each country’s contemporary HPE curricula.
The first year of the EDUHEALTH project focused on knowledge sharing and first-hand experiences of the three different countries’ contexts via exchanges by the central members of the project team. During these exchanges the visiting research team members familiarised themselves with the different research contexts. The research team involved in these exchanges consisted of five female and four male PE teacher educators, most of whom are experienced HPE teachers in their respective countries, with between 5 and 15 years research experience in the fields of PETE and HPE.

New knowledge and data in this first year was generated through: exchanges, presentations, school visits, observations, informal teacher/student interviews, reflective journaling and discussions.

The exchanges in all three countries included several school visits. For these initial school visits, care was taken to include a diverse range of schools and HPE classes. In total eight schools were visited. In New Zealand, three different secondary schools were visited: a single-sex public girls’ and religious semi-private boys’ school in affluent areas of Auckland and a co-educational school in a lower socio-economic area of Auckland. In Sweden, three schools were also visited, including two urban schools and one rural school in the South of Sweden - all secondary, co-educational and public. In Norway, the visits involved one primary and one secondary urban school, both co-educational, public and located in the East of Norway. During these visits the research team varied between working in pairs and small groups but always ensuring that researchers from at least two countries were present.

The school visits were designed to provide a shared knowledge and greater understanding of each other’s specific context.

The researchers made reflective journal notes after each visit. This way the visits were followed by extended discussions within the research team about the school visits, observations and interviews that had been done. These discussions generated a deeper understanding of the different national contexts, for instance, that social justice might mean different things both between and within different countries.

The EDUHEALTH project team carried out several pilot studies in their own countries. The data and insights generated from these pilot studies were crucial in refining the methodology and methods for the main data collection activities taking place during 2018 across the three different countries. The secondment in New Zealand during March/April 2018 involved four of the Swedish and two of the Norwegian EDUHEALTH researchers being seconded to and participating in the data collection across schools in Auckland.

In September the EDUHEALTH project team presented their ongoing work at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in Bolzano, Italy, September 3-7, where the conference theme this year was ‘Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research’. As part of Network 18 ‘Research in Sport Pedagogy’ the EDUHEALTH team hosted a symposium titled ‘Researching Social Justice and Health (in)Equality across different School Health and Physical Education’ consisting of three papers.

After the ECER conference the New Zealand EDUHEALTH researchers travelled to Sweden and Norway to participate in the data collection in school HPE alongside their Swedish and Norwegian colleagues. In total seven different secondary schools in Sweden and Norway were involved, and data was collected from observations of twelve HPE lessons and subsequent interviews with seven HPE teachers. The schools and HPE lessons observed varied both in terms of cultural and ethnic diversity as well as socioeconomic status amongst the students.

As the EDUHEALTH project is moving into its final year in 2019 the work continues with representing and analysing the collected data. Next exchange will take place in New Zealand March 2019 followed by another conference presentation at the ECER conference in Hamburg, Germany, September 2019. The focus of this conference presentation will be on reporting on the final results and analysis along with implications for school HPE and teacher education practices.
In order to to promote physical activity and health for all EU:s citizens the EDUHEALTH project has identified school HPE teaching practices that promote social justice and more equitable health outcomes across the three different participating countries. The findings from first two years of the project show good examples of practice, of how to teach for and/or about social justice in HPE and what needs be taught/experienced during PETE. The exchanges in New Zealand, Sweden, and Norway have highlighted different social justice issues in HPE and the enabling and constraining policies and practices of our different societies. As we carry on implementing our EDUHEALTH project we hope to provide further insights into practices that privilege social justice in HPE contexts, and rich descriptions of the
In order to make a meaningful contribution to the European Union (EU) strategies to promote physical activity and health for all its citizens we have focused on the importance of looking beyond HPE to see what the societal structures that enable and support health equity goals and more equitable health outcomes are. HPE does not take place in a ‘vacuum’ but is shaped by the surrounding educational, socio-historical and political milieu, a milieu that can worsen or improve the fertile ground for those seeds planted during HPE to grow.