Whether it be at Information nights, Autumn Fairs, Twilight evenings or even on the sideline of the sporting field for Danebank, I have often been asked: “What is PDHPE all about? Why do we need it and what do our girls learn? Is it different in the Senior School as opposed to the Junior School? Isn't it just playing sports?”

PDHPE is more than just learning about what foods we should be eating and playing with basketballs! It is a mandatory subject from Kindergarten through to Year 10 with a popular elective subject HSC PDHPE in Years 11 and 12.

PDHPE provides students with opportunities to explore issues that are likely to impact on the health, safety and wellbeing of themselves and others – now and in the future. Areas such as mental health, drug use, sexual health, nutrition, relationships, personal safety and discrimination are just some of the topics that we teach throughout the Junior and Senior School. Students also participate in challenging and enjoyable physical activity, improving their capacity to move with skill and confidence.

Updated Syllabus

In 2018, the K-10 PDHPE syllabus was updated after years of extensive feedback from teachers. One of the main reasons behind this was to reduce the overall content to be taught as this seemed to be ever growing.

In many learning areas in the curriculum, content was duplicated and the reduction aimed to allow teachers to focus more on in-depth studies and critical thinking of specific topic areas. With the addition of Domestic Violence and Consent into the syllabus, it made for a very crowded and busy learning area.

This new syllabus encourage schools to mould the delivery of the different strands, skills and content to provide authentic learning for individual schools. Each PDHPE strand must be addressed each year, but schools have the autonomy to manage the delivery of content aligned with their school ethos and in a way that best suits their students and the resources that are available to them.

The refinement of the K-10 PDHPE syllabus from four to three strands - Health, Wellbeing and Relationships; Movement Skill and Performance and Healthy, Safe and Active Lifestyles - significantly increases the opportunity to integrate content and impart greater relevance to students. The strands reinforce the importance of lifelong physical activity and positive health habits, equipping students with the skills to manage their health in an informed and purposeful manner.

Five propositions

The content of the syllabus is organised around five propositions, the most notable being the move towards a strengths-based approach.

These propositions are:

  • Take a strengths-based approach
  • Value movement
  • Focus on educative purposes
  • Include a critical inquiry approach
  • Develop health literacy

In a world where we see a growing reliance on technology and engagement with social media, the inclusion of specific content to assist students to maintain personal safety online is paramount. A strong focus on the ethical use of technology and the development of strategies to manage online conflict will allow students to interact with relevant content and develop necessary skills to navigate their ever changing world.

This is a major focus in our Stage 4 content here at Danebank. As students’ progress to Stage 5, the syllabus introduces more “real-life” experiences such as creating and evaluating health campaigns, programs or mobile applications that aim to promote fitness or participation in a lifetime of physical activity. This is an exciting shift in the new syllabus and one that the PDHPE teachers are encouraged by. It also creates an opportunity to increase the enjoyment and engagement in learning for teachers and students alike.

Differentiation is important

Differentiation is also important in our teaching and for many assessments. Students get the opportunity to choose between particular questions to answer on a topic, also, they can decide on how they would like to present the information, be it visual, oral or written. This gives the students an opportunity to develop a love of learning and catering for all student needs.

Another major change in this new syllabus is the stronger focus on areas relating to wellbeing and relationships, such as the mandatory teaching on Domestic Violence and more recently Consent. These areas are very topical at the moment in the media, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons, and it is important to empower our students to be strong enough to make the right decisions for themselves and those around them.

Positive link between exercise and memory

Recent research has shown the positive link between exercising and working memory, one of the major reasons students are encouraged to be physically active through to Year 12. Many students give up sport or any form of exercise as they want to focus more on their studies, or simply lack the time needed to participate. It has been shown that regular aerobic exercise—the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping—boosts the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Exercise can also boost memory and thinking indirectly by improving mood and sleep, and by reducing stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment or anxiety leading up to major assessments or exams.

Technology and Social Media

Students are growing up in an era where they can’t escape social media or technology. Unfortunately there is a growing correlation between social media use and increased risks of depression, low self-esteem, loneliness, withdrawal and anxiety. According to some studies, the age group most affected being girls between the ages of 10 and 14.

While social media is sometimes touted to combat loneliness, a significant body of research suggests it may have the opposite effect. By triggering comparison with others, it can raise doubts about self-worth, potentially leading to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Media, social media and peer pressures influence the way teens see themselves. Their mental perception of what they look like can become distorted, leading them to engage in risk behaviours when they feel they don't measure up to the impossible goal set in front of them. We hope to combat this.

Leading healthy and fulfilling lives

With all this said, it is important that we do everything possible to try to empower our girls to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. To achieve this, we need to ingrain these ideas into the girls from Pre-K at Danebank. So how can we do this and decrease the reliance on social media and also teach them about the benefits of exercise?

PDHPE is one way we can make this happen, leading us to the creation of the PDHPE Roadmap. It displays a girl’s journey from Pre-K to Year 12. It shows that these key core topics are taught all throughout their schooling and are not just one off items. One can see some of the main topic areas covered in class and when they are covered in PDHPE. Within each topic area there are also a wide range of areas that we address.

Our goal in PDHPE is to foster a love of learning and also to promote lifelong participation in physical activity through the development of attitudes, skills and movement competence.