Primary to secondary school transfer and adjustment : the role of physical education
This study examined the relationships and differences amongst selected physical education and psychological characteristics of boys before and after secondary school transfer. The purpose of the study was to determine the significance of boys' attitudes to physical education, motor performance and physical education self-esteem (self-perceptions of performance in physical education) at the age of school transfer, and establish the role of physical education before and during adjustment to secondary school. Independent samples of Primary schoolboys (n = 50) and secondary schoolboys(n = 107) formed a cross-sectional study, whilst twenty-five primary school transferees formed a small-scale longitudinal study. Pupils' attitudes towards physical education, motor performance and physical education self-esteem (PESE) were assessed during the last term at primary school and on two occasions (December and June) during the first year at secondary school. In addition, global self-esteem and anxiety were measured at each stage, and a self-report school transfer questionnaire was administered at the end of the transfer year. From these sources, low self-esteem, high anxiety and negative attitudes to secondary school were used as indicators of poor school adjustment. Differences amongst the psychological variables across transfer revealed that the move to secondary school appeared to be a positive experience for most boys. However, those boys identified as poorly adjusted to secondary school were less sure of themselves, more anxious, and recorded lower global and physical education self-esteem. Correlational analysis and discriminant analysis of low, average, and high motor performers (actual and perceived) revealed that poor motor performance was not consistently associated with low global self-esteem, high anxiety, or poor school adjustment. In contrast, low physical education selfesteem was associated with negative psychological characteristics and all the indicators of poor secondary school adjustment. Findings also suggested that physical education self-esteem may serve (1) as a mediating variable between actual motor performance and global self-esteem, and (2) as a mediating variable between physical education experiences and school adjustment. On the basis of the results, a preliminary model of secondary school adjustment incorporating physical education is presented for discussion and empirical test. Also in light of the study's findings, the National Curriculum for England and Wales is analysed to consider the extent to which physical education experiences are likely to assist children's motor and psychological development before transfer and during secondary school adjustment.