Playing to our strengths: physical education leadership in Irish primary schools
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This thesis set out to research primary physical education (PE) leadership. It is an exploratory study investigating generalist primary school teachers’ experiences of PE leadership. Although PE leadership has been identified as an important contributory factor to the success of school based PE programmes, to date there is a lack of data explicitly investigating PE leadership in primary schools, particularly informal PE leadership. Utilising a professional capital framework, this research provides an original contribution to existing knowledge by providing the first insight into Irish generalist teachers’ understanding of PE leadership and of the skills and supports required to engage in PE leadership. Using qualitative methods including individual interviews, focus group interviews, reflections and observations, data were generated on teachers’ experiences of PE leadership over two separate interventions. Study 1 investigated five teachers’ experiences of leading a PE innovation alongside a number of colleagues within their school. The results indicated that the lead teachers who provided PE leadership had an important role in supporting PE innovation. These results led to further consideration of how school based PE leadership could be utilised within primary schools in Study 2. This second study investigated the leadership experiences of three lead teachers who taught additional PE across their school through class swapping. It was found that teachers with expertise and enthusiasm for PE positively influenced PE provision within their school through class swapping. The opportunity to teach additional PE also increased the lead teacher’s ability and desire to provide further PE leadership within their school. The results demonstrated that generalist teachers valued PE leadership and embraced shared approaches to it. Provided that PE leadership is supported and scaffolded, the results indicate that teachers with individual PE expertise and a broad whole school understanding of leadership can have a positive influence on PE within primary schools through the provision of PE leadership.