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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
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Health and Physical Education in the Australian Curriculum

Janice Atkin
Senior Project Officer, Health and Physical Education, ACARA

The learning area of Health and Physical Education is designed to help students acquire the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to lead healthy, safe and active lives. Informed by a strong, multidisciplinary evidence base, the subject is intended to help students to be comfortable in their own skin – to know who they are, why they are the person they are, what they stand for and what factors contribute to making them the person they are. Health and Physical Education also plays a part in making students aware of the people around them, able to celebrate the diversity in their community and to respect difference and challenge discrimination whenever they encounter it.

The new Health and Physical Education curriculum has now been published on the Australian Curriculum website and made available for use. The current article looks at the rationale for the curriculum, its structure, and how it was developed.

The curriculum is awaiting endorsement from the Ministerial Council. In the meantime, decisions about the use of the Health and Physical Education curriculum are to be taken by relevant authorities in each state and territory.

Propositions for a futures-oriented Health and Physical Education curriculum

The Health and Physical Education curriculum is based on five interrelated characteristics, or propositions.

Focus on educative purposes

Although the curriculum may contribute to a range of non-educational goals, its prime purpose is to provide the basis for ongoing, developmentally appropriate and explicit learning about health and movement. The Health and Physical Education curriculum ensures that students are provided with opportunities to create, apply and evaluate knowledge, develop their understanding, and practise and refine the skills of the learning area.

Apply a strengths-based approach

The Health and Physical Education curriculum shifts the focus of learning from being primarily a deficit-based, risk-focused model of health. Rather, it affirms that all students and their communities have particular strengths and resources that can be nurtured to improve their own and others' health, wellbeing, movement competence and participation in physical activity. However, the curriculum also recognises that students have varying levels of access to personal and community resources, a fact which will impact on their health and physical activity decisions and behaviours.

Value movement

Health and Physical Education is the learning area that focuses explicitly on developing skills, concepts and positive dispositions towards movement, as a preparation for future life and long-term health. The study of movement has a broad and established scientific, social, cultural and historical knowledge base, informing our understanding of how and why we move and how we can improve physical performance.

Movement competence, confidence and a commitment to physical activity are seen as important personal and community assets to be developed, refined and valued. Health and Physical Education promotes an appreciation of how movement in all its forms is central to daily life – from meeting functional requirements to acknowledging physical activity and sport as significant cultural and social practices.

The study of movement also provides challenges and opportunities for students to enhance a range of personal and social skills and behaviours that contribute to their health and wellbeing.

Develop health literacy

Health literacy can be understood as an individual's ability to gain access to, understand and use health information and services in ways that promote and maintain health and wellbeing. Consistent with a strengths-based approach, health literacy is a personal and community asset to be developed, evaluated, enriched and communicated.

Include a critical inquiry approach

The Health and Physical Education curriculum engages students in critical inquiry processes that assist students in researching, analysing, applying and appraising knowledge in health and movement fields. In doing so, students will critically analyse and critically evaluate factors that influence decision making, behaviours and actions. Students explore the themes of inclusiveness, power inequalities, taken-for-granted assumptions, diversity and social justice.

The curriculum recognises that health practices and physical activity will be influenced by the different meanings that individuals and social groups attach to them, based on their different interests, values and contexts. This diversity means that Health and Physical Education will be delivered through a variety of approaches and strategies.

The curriculum structure

The curriculum is organised into two content strands – Personal, social and community health and Movement and physical activity. Each strand contains content descriptions that are organised under three sub-strands.

HPE curriculum structure

Descriptions of elaborations can be found by selecting the relevant content description code, for example ACPPS001, on the Health and Physical Education Foundation to Year 10 page.

The focus areas of the curriculum allow teachers to tailor their learning activities to ensure they are relevant and meaningful to their students based on their local context.

Relevant focus areas have been mapped to each content description and elaboration to assist teachers in their planning. To find a description of each focus area and the expected learning select the acronyms at the end of each elaboration.

Content descriptors3

Content description and elaborations for 'Identify personal strengths (ACPPS001)'. The link and title tag for the Health benefits of physical activity learning area are highlighted.

Viewing the curriculum

The curriculum can be viewed from three different aspects – as a single band down the page, as multiple bands across the page or as a single band with content descriptions and elaborations.

HPE viewing curriculum

The consultation process

The Health and Physical Education curriculum has been developed through a highly consultative process. Stakeholders in the field were very active in providing feedback on draft documents. The consultation on the draft Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education (April to June 2012) received over 650 responses providing suggestions and feedback for revision. The national consultation on the draft Health and Physical Education curriculum in Term 1, 2013 also received significant responses from interested stakeholders, with over 378 surveys and submissions.

The draft curriculum was trialled with schools from every state and territory with participating teachers using the draft curriculum to develop a program overview and assessment tasks. Over 97% of trial school participants who responded to the survey (114 of 145 teachers) agreed (75.5%) or strongly agreed (22%) that the draft achievement standards, content descriptions and focus areas provided a manageable set of teaching and learning expectations.

From curriculum planning to the classroom

All young Australians are entitled to study Health and Physical Education as part of the Australian Curriculum every year from Foundation to Year 10. The Health and Physical Education curriculum provides a consistent framework across the country of what we want all students to be taught. It provides an outline for teachers on what they need to teach and when.

Teachers and schools decide on teaching approaches that will be used to deliver the curriculum in their classrooms and teachers will make decisions on what to teach in Health and Physical Education dependent on the age and maturity of their students and the needs of their class.


Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education August 2012, ACARA, Sydney, http://www.acara.edu.au/verve/_resources/Shape_of_the_Australian_Curriculum_Health_and_Physical_Education.pdf

Draft shape of the Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education consultation report July 2012, ACARA, Sydney, http://www.acara.edu.au/verve/_resources/HPE+Consultation+report+-+04022013.pdf

Draft F–10 Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education consultation report v1.2 June 2013, ACARA, Sydney, http://www.acara.edu.au/verve/_resources/HPE_-_F-10_-_Draft_Consultation_Report_-_July_2013v2.pdf

Australian Curriculum: Health and Physical Education, ACARA, Sydney, viewed 21 March 2014, http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/healthandphysicaleducation/Rationale

F–10 overview of the Australian Curriculum, ACARA, Sydney, viewed 21 March 2014, http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Curriculum/Overview

Key Learning Areas

Health and Physical Education

Subject Headings

Curriculum planning
Education policy
Physical education
Health education