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Health and Physical Education

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Learning in Health and Physical Education

The Health and Physical Education curriculum plays a significant role in building the knowledge, skills and understandings that apply to a range of health, wellbeing, safety and movement contexts, including:

  • Swimming and water safety
  • Respectful relationships
  • Building resilience
  • Health and lifestyle
  • Emerging issues in drug and alcohol education
  • Bullying
  • Child safety
  • Road safety.

Swimming and water safety

The Health and Physical Education curriculum includes four focus areas which have specific reference to swimming and water safety. These are:

  • Fundamental movement skills (FMS) focus on the development of movement skills that provides the foundation for competent and confident participation in a range of physical activities. Floating and moving the body through water are fundamental movement skills.
  • Safety (S) addresses safety issues that students may encounter in their daily lives. The content supports students to develop knowledge, understandings and skills to make safe decisions and behave in ways that protect their own safety and that of others, including safe practices when near water, sun safety, use of protective equipment, first aid and emergency care.
  • Lifelong physical activities (LPA) focus on how participation can enhance health-related fitness and wellbeing across the lifespan. Swimming has been identified as a lifelong physical activity.
  • Challenge and adventure activities (CA) focus on participation in physical activities designed to challenge the participant physiologically, behaviourally and socially in diverse contexts and environments and includes activities such as triathlon and swimming for performance with a focus on technique.

Development of knowledge and skills relating to survival swimming and basic water safety can significantly reduce a child’s drowning risk and enhance community safety.

The Victorian Water Safety Certificate is a Victorian Government initiative, which describes specific competencies that should be achieved by the end of primary school. These competencies identify the knowledge and skills to enable students to safely enjoy water-based activities in calm and shallow aquatic environments. The competencies focus on water safety knowledge, rescue skills, survival sequences and the ability to swim a continuous distance of 50 meters.

Further information to assist teachers' plan and implement swimming and water safety education within the Health and Physical Education curriculum can be accessed from the 'Teaching resources' section, under Health and Physical Education curriculum resources.

Respectful relationships

The Health and Physical Education curriculum develops knowledge, understandings and skills to promote respectful relationships and safety. The following focus areas provide the context for teaching about respectful and safe relationships.

  • Relationships and sexuality (RS) focuses on establishing and managing respectful relationships. Students develop knowledge, understanding and skills in relation to strategies for respectfully relating to and interacting with others as well as strategies for dealing with relationships when there is an imbalance of power such as bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence (including discrimination based on race, gender and sexuality).
  • Safety (S) addresses safety issues that students may encounter in their daily lives, including those in the home. Students develop knowledge, understanding and skills to make safe decisions and behave in ways that protect their own safety and that of others, including strategies for dealing with unsafe or uncomfortable situations, managing personal safety and safety in relationships and dating.

Within the ‘Personal, Social and Community Health’ strand, content descriptions and elaborations relevant to developing skills to establish and manage respectful relationships can be found across all levels from Foundation to Level 10.

 The sub-strands contain the following themes:

Being healthy, safe and active

  • Development of personal identity, including gender and sexual identity
  • Help-seeking strategies, including protective behaviours

Communicating and interacting for health and wellbeing

  • The development of social skills necessary for respectful relationships
  • Exploring emotional responses and how these impact on relationships

Contributing to healthy and active communities

  • Evaluation of factors that influence health and wellbeing within the community, including challenging attitudes and behaviours such as homophobia, sexism, prejudice, violence, discrimination and harassment.

Importance of a healthy school environment

The broader school environment should support the delivery of the Health and Physical Education curriculum. Learning in Health and Physical Education supports students to make decisions about their health, wellbeing, safety and physical activity participation. If consistent messages are evident across the school and wider school community, this learning is reinforced. Students are also better able to practise and reinforce their learning in Health and Physical Education if teaching and learning in all curriculum areas and the whole school environment reflect the knowledge, understanding and skills delivered in the Health and Physical Education curriculum. A healthy and supportive school environment is developed through health-promoting school policies and processes, and partnerships with parents, community organisations and specialist services.

Sensitive issues

The Health and Physical Education curriculum includes a number of topics that need to be handled sensitively. These topics include:

  • sexuality and relationships
  • violence prevention education, including gender-based violence and domestic violence
  • mental health. 

The approach to addressing sensitive issues within the Health and Physical Education curriculum should be consistent with the school ethos, community and parental expectations and prescribed guidelines of the relevant educational sector.

Same-sex attracted and gender-diverse students

As with other areas of student diversity, it is crucial to acknowledge and affirm diversity in relation to sexuality and gender in Health and Physical Education. Inclusive Health and Physical Education programs which affirm sexuality and gender diversity acknowledge the impact of diversity on students’ social worlds, acknowledge and respond to the needs of all students, and provide more meaningful and relevant learning opportunities for all students.

Diversity in relation to sexuality and gender is acknowledged and affirmed in Health and Physical Education programs. The design of the Health and Physical Education curriculum recognises the responsibility of school communities to ensure that teaching is inclusive and relevant to the lived experiences of all students, including those who may be same-sex attracted, gender diverse or intersex. The curriculum allows flexibility for schools to meet the learning needs of all young people, particularly in the health focus area of relationships and sexuality.


When discussing topics such as human relationships or sexuality there is a possibility that students may disclose personal information such as sexual preference, abuse or family violence. Teachers need to use strategies to minimise the risk of harmful disclosure in the classroom. Strategies include:

  • making it clear to students prior to teaching sensitive topics that students should not tell personal stories or disclose their own or others experiences in class
  • engage in protective interrupting, that is interrupting the student before they disclose
  • inform the student that if they want to discuss personal issues that this can be done privately outside class.

Mandatory reporting of child abuse

In Victoria teachers are mandated to make a report to the Department of Health and Human Services Child Protection if they form a reasonable belief that a student is in need of protection because they are at risk of harm or neglect, or if a teacher holds a reasonable belief that the student is being subjected to physical or sexual abuse. Teachers should refer to the Child Protection – Reporting Obligations section of the Victorian Government Schools Policy and Advisory Guide. 

Curriculum connections

Dance in Health and Physical Education and in The Arts

Dance is identified in the Arts learning area as one of five art forms. Schools can teach dance in Health and Physical Education in primary and secondary schools through the focus area of rhythmic and expressive movement activities. When teaching dance in Health and Physical Education the emphasis is on dance as a lifelong physical activity and the development of movement skills, concepts and patterns. Dance also provides a medium for students to develop personal and social skills and critically appraise cultural and social factors that shape their own identities, body and communities.

Curriculum Planning

Schools can combine content descriptions across the learning areas and capabilities to create teaching and learning programs. Offering Home Economics and Outdoor Education is an example of this may occur is schools:

Home Economics

Home Economics supports students to develop the capacity to make decisions, solve problems and respond critically and creatively to the practical concerns of individuals, families and communities in local and global contexts. Elements of learning in home economics will draw from content in both Health and Physical Education and Technologies in the Victorian Curriculum. The primary content drawn from the Health and Physical Education curriculum is in relation to food and nutrition, growth and development, identity and connecting to others.

The Health and Physical Education curriculum focuses on developing knowledge, understanding and skills that will support students to make healthy choices about food and nutrition. Students learn about this by exploring the influences on these choices and developing skills to access and assess nutritional information to support healthy choices. In Health and Physical Education, students learn about different stages of life and take increasing responsibility for their own growth and development by exploring and learning how to manage the many different factors that influence their identities. They also develop a practical understanding of how connections to other people influence health and wellbeing.

Outdoor Education

Outdoor Education engages students in practical and active learning experiences in natural environments and settings typically beyond the school boundary. In these environments, students develop knowledge, understanding and skills to move safely and competently while valuing a positive relationship with and promoting the sustainable use of these environments. Elements of learning in outdoor education will draw on content from across the Victorian Curriculum: Foundation to Year 10, including Health and Physical Education, Geography, Science and Personal and Social Capability. The primary content drawn from Health and Physical Education will be in the areas of outdoor recreation and the influence of connection to place and communities on health and wellbeing.

In the Health and Physical Education curriculum, outdoor recreation refers to recreational activities or the act of engaging in recreational activities. These are typically associated with outdoor, natural or semi-natural settings. These activities are an important part of learning in the Health and Physical Education curriculum as they promote lifelong physical activity. They also contribute to health and well-being through direct personal experiences and connections with natural environments. Outdoor activities provide an environment for developing movement competence, promoting a sense of wellbeing, enhancing personal and social skills, and developing an understanding of the concept of risk versus challenge.

Information Communication Technologies and Health and Physical Education

Information Communication Technologies (ICT) are powerful tools that can support student learning. Students can develop and demonstrate their understanding of concepts and content in Health and Physical Education using a range of ICT tools. It is also important that students know how to use these ICT efficiently and responsibly, as well as learning how to protect themselves and secure their data.

Details of how ICT can support student learning in Health and Physical Education is set out in the attached Information Communication Technologies and Health and Physical Education pdf.

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