Professional Learning

Canadian Physical and Health Education Competencies

PHE Canada is proud of the Canadian Competencies for Physical and Health Education, and its progressive, evidence based and responsive pedagogy approach to curriculum. When writing it, we have been unapologetic and wholeheartedly believe that the document will lead to the development and delivery of high quality, relevant, and meaningful physical and health education. 

With a document of this size and influence, we know that you, and those you work with may have questions. We also recognize that not all will receive and read the Competencies in the same way, and thus have created the following questions/answers to support you, our valued partners, in speaking to the relevance and importance of this groundbreaking document.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

The ultimate goal of the Competencies is to develop the capacity of young people to enjoy — and advocate for their rights to — active and healthy lives. The intention of the Competencies is to set a national standard for what young people across Canada are being taught in physical and health education. This document is the starting point for further curriculums to be developed across jurisdictions.


PHE Canada believes that both physical and health education are mutually inclusive. That is, they should not be independent of one another. As we utilize an wholistic approach to active and healthy young people, we must teach all aspects of physical, mental, social, spiritual, and emotional health and well-being. This means comprehensively teaching both physical and health education. Naturally, educators may wish to emphasize certain sections over others for cultural or political reasons or because of the particular needs of special groups, but physical and health education go hand in hand to support the overall health and well-being of young people.

We believe all curricula should be reviewed and developed at regular intervals, as will this document. It would be ignorant to say that our document is evergreen as we argue that curriculums across Canada need constant refinement and development to continue meeting changing students' needs.

Please note: that you cannot save your progress on the online form, your submission will need to be completed in one sitting. Please make sure that a reliable internet connection is available. 

If you require additional support or assistance completing the application form, please contact [email protected].

Impact Project Applications will be scored based on their ability to demonstrate the following:

  1. Project Design
    • The anticipated reach within the school community (i.e., how many students from equity-deserving populations will have access to the program? How many students will have access to the program overall?)
    • How partnerships will be developed with community sport, physical activity and recreational organizations
    • A realistic timeline for completing the project and reporting back to PHE Canada.
  2. Impact and Outcomes
    • How the school's project/program will contribute to the Access to Action program goals
    • How the funded project will increase the participation and retention of equity-seeking groups in sport and physical activity
  3. Knowledge of Community Needs
    • A demonstrated understanding of some of the key barriers’ students within the applicant's school community related to participation in sport or physical activity at school, and a rationale for how the project will assist in reducing these barriers and increasing access to sport.
  4. Sustainability
    • Whether the impact of the project is likely to extend beyond the funding period (i.e. beyond June 2023)
  5. Financial Information
    • How the funds will be used.

Preview Detailed Application Evaluation Criteria Rubric

PHE Canada, as a national organization, is not suggesting that the Competencies are to replace local curricula, but instead they are to be used to complement the development and review of curricula to ensure they reflect best practices and current research. To be sure, the Competencies will need to be tailored to fit local contexts and be accompanied with learning activities that bring them to life.

The development of the Competencies have been informed by evidence and practice, and acts as a guide for educators. Throughout the process students have been a part of the ideation, creation, and editing of the document. We have utilized the work of People for Education and the Students Commission of Canada alongside student feedback to align the document with up-to-date topics that meet the students’ modern day needs whilst providing challenge, inspiring new ways of thinking, and motivates students to learn and embrace what healthy and active means to them personally.

Few sexual education curricula address current issues of gender, sex, and rights in meaningful ways. We believe it is important for students at this grade level to learn about all gendered bodies in order for them to be able to communicate their needs clearly in all cases, particularly those involving injury, medical issues, or even abuse. We must express care and approach all health education topics with sensitivity to the diverse needs of individuals irrespective of their age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, physical/cognitive abilities and religious background.

All students should see themselves reflected within schools and in what they learn. Hidden under a narrative of ‘protecting children’ and the rhetoric that teachers should only teach an outdated curriculum is blatant and violent homophobia and transphobia. Anti-LGBTQ+ words, beliefs, and policies are being used to systematically erase queer students from classrooms. Accurate and inclusive lessons not only affirm LGBTQ+ students but also give non-LGBTQ+ students clear information about the diverse world around them and help prepare all young people to navigate and contribute to a multicultural society.

The topics of gender identity, sexual diversity, pronouns, allyship and many more within the Competencies are up-to-date and help support the dynamic, multi dimensional, and multi-determined aspects of student well-being. The progressive nature of topics in the health education curriculum will help shed light on issues that young people think about but rarely talk about. Comprehensive health education provides an equitable learning space where students gain exposure, knowledge, and skills that are realistic and reflective of their personal physical, social, mental, spiritual health and well-being journey. We can no longer censor our curriculum and hide under the narrative of protecting children.

The cross curricular links between math and health education when looking at financial literacy are strong. In the specific context of the Competencies, financial literacy is taught with students' overall well-being at the forefront of learning, not adding and subtracting numbers. For example an outcome for grade 5 ‘Connect how well-being can be influenced by financial habits and behaviours.’ The teaching approach is having to reflect on how spending, saving, and consumerism can impact their overall health and well-being. It would be our hope that many topics throughout the Competencies are strongly cross curricular and provide students transferable skills beyond just the physical and health education classroom.

A review of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action identifies curriculum as an interlinked process with reconciliation (Toulouse, 2016). PHE Canada recognizes its responsibility as a pan-Canadian association to provide a culturally affirming and relevant approach to reflect Indigenous-held knowledge and practices in the Competencies. We know that supporting young people with quality and culturally affirming learning will strengthen Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to forge new pathways together.

Health and wellness education, as presented in the Competencies, promotes comprehensive well-being at every stage of a student’s development, and empowers them to balance, connect and maintain their emotional, physical, cultural, spiritual, social and psychological well-being.

Throughout the Competencies we purposefully move away from sport-based physical education and towards providing meaningful movement opportunities. Beni, Fletcher, and NiChronin, (2017) position meaningful physical education as consisting of; personal relevance, social interaction, challenge, fun, and motor competence. Movement opportunities allow students to experience a wider range of learning opportunities whilst taking away the false prescription that being physically active means participating in sporting pursuits. 

Movement opportunities allow teachers to adapt physical education to meet the local context and students' needs. How people choose to move varies depending on local context, e.g., weather, location, religion, culture, accessibility etc. Movement opportunities allow students to experience a wider range of learning whilst taking away the false prescription that being physically literate or an active individual means participating in sporting pursuits. Movement opportunities support the dynamic, multi dimensional aspects of physical education. All while providing young people with movement opportunities that are accessible within their local context and community. This approach offers a more wholistic approach for students to gain confidence and competence through movement.

Movement opportunities, physical activity, and sports all elicit feelings associated with personal experiences. Our perception of movement is created through our physical education experience. Research shows if physical education is a safe, inclusive, welcoming, and an enjoyable place to move then people are more likely to be physically active beyond the school walls. Therefore having students feeling confident, competent, knowledgeable, and motivated is of utmost importance.

In response to the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, PHE Canada has embedded Indigenous ways of knowing and doing throughout the Competencies. It was essential to explore the connection between the land on which we live and the environment in which we move throughout the Competencies document. It is our intention that teaching students the land in which we move, grow, and live has its own story that should be told. We believe listening and reflecting through movement is a powerful perspective for students that can only benefit them.

As students navigate through uncertainty, across a wide variety of contexts: in time (past, present, future), in social space (family, community, region, nation and world) and in digital space, it is essential their learning environment nurture diverse perspectives and interests, in local settings with sometimes global implications. It is for these reasons that the Competencies have a strong emphasis on the environment around us. When we move whether it’s land, ice, water, or air we are connecting with the world around us. Therefore we must teach and learn with gratitude and awareness of the impact we have, the challenges we face, and find solutions to improve local environments.

Our approach to physical education goes beyond looking at it as just movement. A wholistic approach to teaching and learning physical education takes into consideration all aspects of students physical health and well-being (physical, mental, social, spiritual, emotional). We must teach not only how to move but also why, when, and what ways people can move. We have made efforts to empower students to consider their development and responsibilities within the context of their communities and lives to be physically active.