Physical Education (PE) in Europe has evolved from influences and initiatives, which have variously shaped national systems either through assimilation or adaptation. As a geopolitical entity Europe is characterised by diversity, testimony to which are different and various forms of structures and practices but there are some elements of congruence in concepts and delivery. Survey and other research evidence indicates a perceived decline or marginalisation of PE in schools, particularly marked in the 1990s, which has attracted attention of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. In presenting the situational trends and tendencies of PE in schools in the European region, this article draws from three European-wide surveys, a World-wide survey and an extensive literature review including global and regional qualitative studies and national reports. In some countries, there are instances of well implemented programmes and good practices. Equally, there is evidence to generate concern about the situation. The review of PE in Europe is marked by “mixed messages” with indicators of stabilization in some countries juxtaposed between positive, effective policy initiatives in other countries and reticence or little political will to act and continuing concerns in others. There are apparent deficiencies in provision, specifically in curriculum time allocation, subject status, financial, material (inadequacies in facility and equipment supply) and human resources, the quality of the physical education curriculum and its delivery as well as the extent of efficacy of beyond school networks. The crux of the situation is that there is a gap between promise and the reality. The article concludes with suggested strategies, underpinned by development of a “basic needs model”, to assist in converting “promises” into “reality” and so secure a safer future for PE in schools.
Key words: physical education, status, policy, curriculum practices, strategies