The effect of maturation on children's experience of physical education: Lessons learned from academy sport

Chris Towlson, Sean Cumming, Katie Donnan, John Toner

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Students’ experiences of physical education (PE) are considered important for lifelong attitudes towards physical activity. Sex-related differences and the individualised tempo in anthropometric growth because of biological maturation lead to secondary school students within chronological age-ordered classes possessing vast differences in anthropometric and physical characteristics, which may negatively impact the PE experience for late- or early-maturing children. Therefore, the purpose of this review was to (i) critically discuss the influence of maturation on developmental factors related to PE and (ii) provide key stakeholders with guidance on how to manage this period of development more effectively and propose solutions to alleviate the confounding influence of biological maturity currently being implemented within sporting contexts. Secondary school children of different maturation status are often categorised using arbitrary, chronological age-ordered bandings, resulting in groups of children exhibiting large within-group variations in physical, behavioural, emotional, and educational development. This heterogeneity may lead to sub-optimal learning environments, which are confounded by complex and often negative developmental consequences for children who are at either extreme (late- or early-maturing) of the maturation continuum. This is particularly important within PE, where engagement, enjoyment, and resultant lifelong physical activity attitudes are influenced by perceived competence and relatedness, and where these needs may be thwarted because of considerable maturity-related variations. This paper posits that it is time for key stakeholders within child education to explore new ways to supplement current teaching practices and consider occasionally grouping children by maturation status (i.e. bio-banding) within secondary school PE to enhance students’ experiences.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Physical Education Review
Early online date2 Jun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2024


  • Maturity
  • adolescence
  • anthropometrical
  • physical
  • physical education
  • psychosocial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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