Since 1925, the North Western Counties Physical Education Association has been the lead organisation in areas of school physical education in the northwest of England. Find out more about how the history of the Association with a comprehensive review complied by David McNair, the former President of the Association.
The aims of the North Western Counties Physical Education Association:
The history of the North Western Counties Physical Education Association, by David McNair, Former President of the NWCPEA.
First Training of PE Women
One of the significant facts in the history of Physical Education in England is that the professional training of women preceded that of the men by more than a quarter of a century. The result was that the professional association – the Ling Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – only catered for women and only those who had been trained in Ling’s Gymnastics over a minimum period of two years. During that period male teachers of the subject came from a variety of backgrounds but mainly from the services or the commercial gymnasium where training was by apprenticeship culminating in a practical examination. Swedish Gymnastics – Ling Gymnastics – was not part of either type of training.
The only male teacher with the appropriate training in Swedish Gymnastics was either trained at Dunfermline College of Physical Education and Hygiene in Scotland or had attended appropriate courses in Sweden or Denmark.
Training of PE Men
Immediately after the First World War (1914-1919) and only for a few years the Board of Education ran a course for ex-service men at Sheffield. The courses ran for a maximum of one year and did not include much Swedish Gymnastics. Consequently teachers trained there were not eligible to join the Ling Association so they formed their own association – Old Sheffieldians. The branch of this association in the North West of England soon realised that many of the men teachers in the area were without any professional association and in 1925 the entrance requirements were extended to them and the association re-named The North Western Counties Physical Education Association.
Programme of Activities
Year by year a full programme of meetings were held on topics of interest and use to practical teachers either in the form of lecture demonstrations or practical sessions. On the social side there was an annual ‘hot pot supper’ and during the Summer term whole day meetings (Saturday) were held with associations in neighbouring towns (Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield) where contests in variety of team games took place. Interest in Physical Education in Secondary schools received a boost by the Board of Education running a weekend conference in Physical Education in Secondary Schools at St Annes on Sea in October 7th-9th 1932. The conference was attended by 11 Chief Education Officers or their deputy, 18 Headteachers or Headmistresses of Secondary Schools, 27 Organisers and Lecturers and 110 teachers of Physical Education in Secondary Schools. The conference was opened with an address given by the Chief Inspector of the Board of Education followed throughout the weekend with lectures from HMI’s and culminating in an open session of question and answers. In the following year (1933) a Syllabus for Physical Training for Elementary Schools was published by the Board of Education
Blackpool Easter School
Encouraged by the events the North Western Counties PE Association was stimulated into considering how best it could fulfil its function of encouraging the growth of the subject in the North West. Out of the deliberations grew the Blackpool Easter School which for the following fifty years became a national institution in the provision of in-service training in physical education. It became the flag ship of the NWCPEA and from the profit made by it the Association prospered and grew in recognition throughout the country and beyond. Except for the ‘war years’ the Easter School provided for the next fifty years as ever increasing range of courses to meet the needs of teaching as the content of the PE programmes grew in diversity in schools, college and community.
Like the Association itself the Blackpool Easter School was a leader in the field by providing new courses in anticipation of the future demand. There was a policy of providing courses which initially were unprofitable in the hope that in a few years they would cover their own expenses. Because the Easter School normally made a profit the Association was able to give grants to School Sport Associations and donate generously in the early days of Sport for the Disabled.
Members of the Association were helped in the early days of Outdoor Pursuits by the provision of a pool of canoes and sailing dinghies and occasionally a member who was reading a paper at an international conference was given a grant towards his expenses.
It was quite understandable that the Easter School was popular at moderate cost it provided courses in activities and subjects of immediate value to teachers taught by the best lecturers in the subject. At its peak in the mid seventies the attendance was over 1300 students and for eleven years between 1968 and 1979 it never fell below a 1000 students. However the decline local authorities methods of funding teachers to attend in-service courses and by 1990 it was no longer financially viable to run the Easter School.
Early Members of the Association
Like many associations of this nature the prosperity of the NWCPEA in terms of membership and members attending meetings throughout the years fluctuated and many committees have wrestled with the problem when numbers declined. But looking at the work of the association throughout its history quite a discerning pattern of the content of the programme can be seen as well as the background of members attending. In the early days of the association interested was concentrated on the ‘bread and butter’ needs of the physical education teacher – gymnastics, swimming, team games and dance. The local organisers of Lancashire, Cheshire and Manchester were closely involved in the running of the association and they did much to encourage new members of staff in schools in their area to join. Although a male association it is of interest to note that dance – originally promoted in the female members of the association – was given good coverage and their courses run at Blackpool did much to promote its popularity amongst many female teachers.
Growth of Specialised Courses
With the growth of specialised courses in physical education in the sixties at initial training there was an increase of physical education staff at most teacher training colleges. The association attracted these lecturers into membership and the content of topics discussed at meetings and courses at Blackpool reflected their immediate needs and interests. Lectures and courses in various aspects of the college syllabus became popular with the advent of the BEd. The bias towards academic and theoretical aspects of the subject grew and even the Blackpool Easter School, which up to then had only offered practical courses began to offer taster courses in sociology, psychology and philosophy as they applied to physical education and were conducted by.
In more recent years the trend has been towards the curriculum, its co content and administration. This development has been brought about by members, who in their work, are responsible for forward thinking in this area. The outcome is that in addition to lectures and discussions the association has published documents and teaching packages to facilitate the implementation of the changes brought about by recent legislation.
Physical Education Review
There has never been a period when some aspect of the NWCPEA’s activities have not been making a valuable contribution to the subject throughout the country. The recent years this has been through the publication of an international journal – Physical Education Review.
Beginning in 1978 it quickly became recognised as providing a medium through which the academic, theoretical, historical and practical aspects of the subject are presented in a readable form to most people interested in physical education. Recently it has been more international in its appeal by the provision of the French, German and Spanish summaries to English text.