sports development

sport & physical activity academic resources

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Ruff Guide to PE & School Sport

E-mail Print

Physical Education (PE) being one of only five subjects required for all pupils from the ages 5-16 (Talbot, 2008) has the potential to develop an individual’s educational achievement through the enhancement of self-confidence, self-esteem and social and cognitive development (ICSSPE, 2001).

Collins (2012) further suggests that Government associates the concept of sport with youth and education far more than any other domain. In schools sport and physical activity is contextualised principally as Physical Education (PE) and in recent years there has been no greater influence on PE than that of the government policy.

This Ruff Guide presents an interpretation of the developmental landscape of PE and School Sport from 1995 to 2012 offering some research avenues for undergraduate students and suggesting links between PE and School Sport practice within the context of the wider policy agenda.

As a starting point for avenues of interesting undergraduate research we offer the following diagram (from the PESSYP strategy, YST (2009)) for inspiration;

Claims for PESSYP to wider Government agendas


The mid 1990s saw a step-change in school education in England and Wales; various developments in relation to the National Curriculum and particularly the Education Reform Act (ERA 1988) changed the way in which schools operated. Impacts were felt across state school provision which included physical education.

The development of the National Curriculum for Physical Education (NCPE) introduced in 1992 (revised in 1995, 2000 and again in 2008), with its focus on elite sport and competitive team games, supported in the Conservative government sport policy document Sport: Raising the Game (DNH, 1995), gave license to the 1997 New Labour Government to become increasingly interventionist in setting the PE and School Sport policy agenda during the late 1990s.

The trend toward the development of schools with "specialisms" was initiated by the Conservatives and continued under the newly elected Labour government in the form of "Specialist Sports Colleges". Here connections developed between feeder primary schools and secondary provision via the programme called "school sports co-ordinators" (SSCos). The specialist sports colleges and school sports co-ordinators initiatives were originally conceived as developing wider opportunities in some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK (see Bringing Britain Together, A Sporting Future for All, PAT 10, Game Plan etc.) as part of New Labour's crosscutting 'social inclusion' agenda. Physical Education and school sport was central to New Labour’s sport policy as part of their ‘Education, education, education’ rhetoric when coming to power in 1997.

A Specialist Sports College was a maintained secondary school (in England) which received additional funding from the Department for Education and Skills to raise standards in physical education and sport within its own school environment , in a local family of schools and in the wider community. Schools could then apply for sports college status by raising £50,000 of private sector sponsorship and submitting to the DfES a four year development plan outlining how it would raise standards in PE and extra-curricula sport. Sports colleges were one of eight categories of specialist schools in the Government's specialist schools programme. In return for a sponsor contribution of £50,000 (reduced in particular areas of multiple deprivation), the department for education and skills (DfES) provided a capital grant of £100,000 which, combined with sponsorship, allowed for a capital project of at least £150,000 (more if sponsorship was greater). Schools applying for 'sports college' status were also eligible to apply for Lottery funding of up to £2 million to improve their facilities for PE and sport. Specialist schools also received an additional per capita annual grant of £123 per pupil, (i.e. for the average size school of 1,000 pupils an equivalent contribution of £123,000 per year), which may have been used for additional staff, materials, in-service training, equipment replacement or out-reach work. This funding was available for an initial period of four years (subject to a review of progress after year two).

Both initiatives grew exponentially and expanded further than deprived areas attracting increasing amounts of both exchequer and lottery funding. The School Sports Co-ordinator programme particularly developed (in scale at least) to become a new tier in PE teacher provision having national conferences and, in effect, its own lead body in the form of the Youth Sports Trust. It was this level of structural managerialism that attracted some criticism at the time and the increasing cost was (inter-alia) perhaps the root of its downfall in 2010 under the Coalition government. The story of the formation, rationale, growth and effective demise of the programme we turn to below.

The School Sport Co-ordinator Programme was launched – by the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in September 2000. The programme brought together families of schools to help deliver for pupils a two hour (per week) entitlement to high quality physical education (PE) and school sport within and beyond the curriculum.

The programme had six strategic aims and objectives (delivered through eight strands):

  1. raising standards – supporting schools to review and develop their PE and school sport programmes to enhance the quality of provision;
  2. strategic planning – enhancing PE and sports development through development plans;
  3. primary liaison – establishing and developing PE and sports programmes for primary and special schools (particularly targeting the Key Stage 2/3 interface);
  4. school to community – building and supporting school/club links;
  5. out-of-school-hours activity – developing and supporting out-of-school-hours sports programmes (including inter and intra school competitions); and
  6. coaching and leadership – developing leadership, coaching and officiating programmes to help pupils gain skills to enhance their future role with the sporting community.

The Local Education Authority (LEA) identified an experienced teacher, normally within a Specialist Sports College (SpSC) to manage and in most cases deliver an enhanced PE curriculum to their feeder Primary schools. Known as the School Sport Co-ordinator (SSCo) and working with up to 5 Primary schools links were established with an experienced Primary Link Teacher (PLT) in each feeder school.

As the SSCo programme grew into wider families of schools larger School Sports Partnerships developed and Partnership Development Managers (PDM) were appointed, each working with 4 to 6 partner Secondary schools (depending on local circumstances) and a team of SSCo’s and Primary Link teachers.

The School Sports Co-ordinator initiative, then principally based in Specialist Sports Colleges (although this was, and is, not the only model) aimed to develop the quality of delivery of physical education in schools and particularly the links between Key Stages 2 and 3 (the gap between primary and secondary provision) in addition to achieving the government's then target of two (2) hours of PE for every child per week (modified sometime later to the ‘five hour offer’) The links made by Programme Development Managers (PDMs) and School Sports Co-ordinators with Primary link teachers were designed to achieve these targets.

In addition Specialist Sports Colleges and School Sport Co-ordinator programmes were charged with developing 'community' links (the former also charged with developing further and higher education links). The two initiatives, sports colleges and the newly termed school sports partnerships formed two of the eight strands of the PESSCL strategy (Physical Education and School Sport Club Links), later reconceptualised as PESSYP (including provision for 16 – 19 year olds).

These school / club / wider community links, stem from the 1960 report of Wolfenden "Sport and the Community", schools opening their doors to a wider population than their own pupils and school partnerships. These wider community links provided fertile ground for the county sports partnerships (under their initial remit of active sports and school/club links) and local authority sport development professionals (coaches and development officers) to identify talented young sports performers.

The various claims for the value of sport in educational settings are as old as the British Empire itself (and not unrelated) ranging from that famous [mis] quotation attributed to the Duke of Wellington in 1815 that "the battle of Waterloo was won ... on the playing fields of Eton" to those various claims made in recent sport policy documents including Game Plan (2002). In summary the positional statements are; that sport might contribute - in an educational context to;

Enhancing [wider] educational attainment. (there is little evidence for this)
Developing psychological traits (self-esteem etc.)
Enhancing social responsibility
Developing moral responsibility
Developing interpersonal skills
Developing lifelong [positive] health behaviours
Encouraging social conformity (& behaviour)
Developing employment key skills (teamwork etc.)
Reducing childhood obesity (6% at present)
Combating adolescent depression

(this list is not exhaustive: see Bailey et al)


The PE and Sport Strategy for Young People (PESSYP) launched in January 2008 expressed the then Government’s commitment to improve the quantity and quality of PE and sport undertaken by young people aged 5 to 19 in England. PESSYP was, according to the DCMS, designed to build on the success of the PE, School Sport and Club Links (PESSCL) Strategy for 5 to 16 year olds [sic], which went live in April 2003. PESSYP saw an investment of £755 million over three years to deliver the work announced by Prime Minister Brown in July 2007, and was set out in the then Public Service Agreement target 22.

The strategy was the joint overall responsibility of the then department for children, schools and families (DCSF) and the department for culture, media and sport (DCMS) working in particular with the then department for universities, innovation and skills (DUIS), in relation to 16 to 19 year olds and with links to department of health (DoH).

There were key roles for the infrastructure of specialist sports colleges, school sport partnerships, national governing bodies, county sports partnerships and other community providers to ensure that all 5 to 16 years olds had access to two hours of PE and three hours beyond the curriculum and that 16 to 19 year olds had three hours of sport outside of the curriculum. Collectively, this was referred to as the “Five Hour Offer”.

5 Hour offer in a nutshell

From PESSCL school children, 5 to 16 year olds, should have received 2 hours PE at school per week and an additional 3 hours of out of school physical activity and sporting opportunities: The responsibility for this sat with the Youth Sports Trust. (image YST (2009)


16 – 19 year old provision was a bit more complicated; for those in sixth form [years 12 and 13 in schools] or Further Education and the implication then in Higher Education; should have had opportunities for 3 hours of Physical activity and Sport. In 2011 a number of Universities gained grants to develop a wider physical activity agenda for from Sport England under the Active Universities initiative.

16 – 19 year olds outside of education become the focus of Sport England through the County Sports Partnerships [CSP’s] in the context of providing the 3 hours of physical activity and sport opportunities, the CSP’s then becoming in effect and again the delivery arm of ‘sport policy’ of Sport England, a concept they were encouraged to desist from in Game Plan (2002) preferring a Sport England role of enabler. Sport England sponsored and adopted ‘Sport Unlimited’ which included ‘Street Games’ to provide what they saw as a more relevant and user [what young people want] driven Sport and Physical activity mechanism than physical education.

The youth sport trust and sport england developed a collective partnership arrangement in the context of Sport Unlimited, dividing responsibilities in providing the “five hour offer” to those young people not in education. Interestingly however, nowhere in this delivery vehicle were local authorities who spend over 1 billion pounds annually in sport and recreation in the UK.

At launch it was uncertain what would be identified as the various components of the 'five hour offer'. In essence, it was difficult to differentiate PE and sport from wider physical activity, and therefore to delineate what was and was not to be considered part of the "five hour" sporting landscape, and moreover whether the YST (or indeed schools) were an appropriate context for the delivery of opportunities to a post school age population.  (image YST (2009)



School Sport Partnerships

Under the PESSYP strategy, School Sport Partnerships remained the key driver for young people’s 'high quality sports opportunities' within and beyond the curriculum. SSPs retained a responsibility for increasing participation opportunities and supporting the development and delivery of high quality physical education and school sport, but it was hoped, also to become much more outward looking, to ensure that appropriate pathways exist, or are being developed, for young people to access high quality sporting opportunities beyond the school gates. It was envisaged that to do this community partnerships, including local authority services, county sports partnerships, voluntary agencies and national governing bodies would need to be strengthened.

(See here for an indepth and instructive academic qualitative evaluation of the impact of SSP's to primary Education in the North East)


Further Education Sport Coordinators(FESCo)

Thirty-one pilot FESCo applications were approved at the first meeting of the FESCo Operations Group at the end of March 2008.

The YST were engaged in formal and focussed consultation and review processes with the pilot colleges and SSPs to ensure that lessons learned from the pilot group were captured and used to inform the national rollout. SSPs, CSPs and LAs were all to be involved to a an extent, in national briefings on the rollout of the programme during late April and May 2008. These briefings detailed the aims and objectives of the FESCo infrastructure, as well as providing further information on the application process. The key tasks involved all partners in working together to ensure that the most effective local relationships were established through the on-going mapping of FE colleges into the SSP infrastructure. It was envisaged that CSPs would play an enhanced role in the delivery of the 5 hour offer. CSPs leading the delivery of the 'extending activities' work strand in addition to their current then role within the 'step into sport' work strand. It was also suggested that NGBs would play a key role in supporting the delivery of many work strands including 'club links', 'step into sport', 'competition managers', etc.   See more about FE Sport provision here.

Club Links

The club links work strand was designed to create and develop links between schools and community sports clubs to support an increase in the number of children aged 5 to16 years old who were participating in community sports clubs and the overall outcome of club links work strand was to increase the number of young people in school sport partnerships involved in community based sport.

The club links work strand 2008-11, was delivered by sport england in close partnership with the youth sport trust, national governing bodies of sport and the child protection in sport unit of the NSPCC.

Its remit was to: ·

  • Create high quality sports club opportunities for young people that are welcoming, safe, high quality and child friendly
  • Create high quality environments which encourage participation of children and young people
  • Offer activity programmes which include provision for talent development, incorporating the [some would say questionable] principles of the Long Term Athlete Development model
  • Provide access to activity programmes to all sections of the community
  • Recruit and develop coaches and volunteers (including young people) to provide the best possible activity programmes

School Sport Coaches

This programme was designed to create a step-change in the quantity and quality of coaching offered to young people in sport. It was aimed at driving up standards of coaching children and making a positive contribution to the Five Hour Offer. It offered TOPUP coaching grants to all SSPs to enable them to build on local relationships and coaching programmes.

The programme comprised:

1. A grant of £21,500 to each SSP
2. Coach management workshops for Programme Development Managers
3. Local authority briefings
4. School sports coaching scholarships

Recruit into Coaching

This was a new initiative, launched in the autumn 2008. YST, sport england and sportscoach UK developed the framework for the implementation of the recruit into coaching programme. This programme, announced by prime minister in September 2007, aimed to see the recruitment of 10,000 adult volunteers into coaching in support of the 5 Hour Offer over three years. The programme was delivered in 70 of the most deprived areas of the country and aimed to provide adults with the skills and inspiration to volunteer as a coach. It was hoped the programme would contribute to workforce development, encourage people from deprived areas to be active and personally involved in their communities, as well as developing more adult role models within school and community sport. This Recruit into Coaching programme was aligned with the coach management and professional development package being developed for the School Sports Coaching programme.

Competition Managers

The [School] competition manager infrastructure was implemented within school sport partnerships, across the 49 county areas in England and by January 2009 every county area had a team of competition managers in place. Competition managers were considered an integral part of the network in raising the quality and quantity of competitive opportunities for all young people in line with the national governing bodies’ competition frameworks and further encouraged by changes in government policy driven by London 2012 as articulated in the 2008 policy, Playing to Win. The competition manager positions were designed to work with national governing bodies to ensure the alignment of the 'network' and the priorities identified within each sport, in order to increase the number of young people engaged in regular competitive opportunities. On the back of the then culture secretary James Purnell’s view of sport and PE, a 'national school sport week' was launched (2008) providing what the government described as a new resource to support schools in establishing vibrant and modern intra-school competition programmes. The vision was that intra-school competition would focus on engagement and enjoyment by all through a social or recreational experience and embracing the needs of local young people aged 11 to 16.

National school sport week envisaged the launch of sports which had been working together to develop traditional, modified and alternative formats that would be both appropriate and appealing. More sports were to be added over two years to ensure that a wide ranging and flexible programme of intra-school competition could be provided for all young people, regardless of ability to experience positive competition, with a minimum of 25% taking part regularly over the course of the school year. Working in partnership with national governing bodies and school sport partnerships, a resource would be distributed to all school sport coordinator’s from september 2008 to support the development and implementation of high quality, regular intra-school competition. SSPs were invited to send representatives to regional briefings (summer and autumn terms) that looked to unpick the competition pathway for young people and challenge the thinking around targeting the middle 50% band to access intra-school competition as a mechanism to increase participation from 3 to 5 hours.

Disability Pathways

The aim of the programme was to establish a network of 450 'multi-sport disability clubs' across SSPs. These clubs would offer a club sport experience to all young disabled pupils who were unable or do not wish to access inclusive provision. The programme would also connect four interventions which collectively aimed to support the achievement of the 5 Hour Offer for young disabled people and ensure that those with a higher level of ability were identified and able to access a talent pathway.

The four interventions were as follows:

  1. Access to the Identifying Ability CPD course delivered through LDAs
  2. Multi-Skill Inclusion training to support the provision of fully inclusive Multi-Skills Clubs which offered competitive opportunities to those who wanted them.
  3. Training, resources and funding to support the establishment of a pan-disability Multi-Sport Disability Clubs
  4. Resources and funding to support the delivery of Ability Identification Days which promoted the identification of talented young disabled people and their signposting on to County Assessment Centres delivered by CSPs.

The programme would be rolled out in phases with partnerships being identified through “readiness factors”. By 2011, it was hoped that there would be a national network of multi-sport disability clubs.

Extending Activities

The extending activities work strand was aimed at providing a range of attractive and sustainable opportunities in sporting activities for young people from the ‘semi sporty population segment’ to take part in during school term time. The work strand would implement precise plans targeting young people that were generated by county sports partnerships (CSPs) working at a local level in partnership with school sport partnerships (SSPs).

Plans in this strand were designed to target young people from across the segment and would include providing activities in areas of deprivation. The intention of this work strand was to link with partners from the wider ‘young people agenda’ where effective partnership working was important to help target and deliver in these areas. Not surprisingly the CSPs, rather than the YST or SSP's were accountable for the delivery of the work strand. Their major role was then to undertake a planning and implementation process that would lead to ‘joined up’ and integrated delivery for young people across both sporting and wider ‘positive activities’ agendas. A critical role for CSPs was to identify providers (including clubs) that offer high quality and sustainable activities for young people. There was an emphasis on ensuring coaches selected by providers offered high quality and compelling activities to young people. The work strand aimed to get 900,000 children and young people taking part in attractive and sustainable sporting activities over the delivery period 2008 to 2011. Communication between SSPs and CSPs was considered vital in ensuring that plans for the extending activities wwork strand were children and young people focused – i.e. providing affordable, accessible, appropriate and attractive activities.

Plans were dependent on the precision in targeting identified groups of young people following collaboration between the CSP, the SSSPs and other partners [local authorities]. In particular, intelligence provided by the ‘partnership evaluation and priorities documents’ generated by SSPs were crucial in ensuring plans had young people at their heart and were high quality and effective. This intelligence enabled plans to target specific young people by gender, attitude to sport and age enabling plans to be very local and very precise.

Step into Sport A Direction for the Future (Step ON, Step IN, Step UP)

The purpose of the step into sport programme was to increase the quantity, quality and diversity of young people engaged in volunteering and leadership, with consequent benefits to schools, clubs, the community and the young people themselves. In essence the step into sport programme was conceived as a tool which enabled schools to grow young people as leaders and deploy them as active volunteers both within the school and community settings (communitarianism / citizenship)

The youth sport trust and sport england worked with a number of partner agencies to develop a delivery model for step into sport (08/11) that was designed to create the following outcomes:

  1. A pathway of leadership and volunteering from KS3 – KS5 (aged 11 to 19) that starts with an introduction to Leadership roles through the PE Curriculum using Sport Education through to School based volunteering and ultimately young people as Community Volunteers
  2. A menu of national governing body sport-specific qualifications and generic leadership qualifications that were aligned to developments in the 14 to 19 curriculum, including the emerging ‘Sports Diploma’.
  3. Effective support for young people at a local level (SSP) through the provision of 'leadership academies' that would enable them to become effective school-based and community based volunteers.
  4. Clear pathways that allowed young people to move through from generic leadership roles into specific volunteering roles such as coaching, officiating, event volunteering, team manager/sports administration and roles within IT/Media.
  5. A community pathway alongside the route way developed through education that would be in place to support young people as leaders and volunteers who are volunteering within a club setting.


and then in 2010...................


The Coalition Government

In 2010 a Conservative led coalition was elected in the UK. The new Education minister Michael Gove, a radical conservative traditionalist, turned his attention to PE and School Sport making what turned out to be controversial media headlines over proposed funding cuts of PE and school sport; spending cut proposals for PESSYP and in particular the removal of SSP’s (this the wider context of economic austerity). Goves made it clear that School Sport Partnerships were ‘neither affordable nor likely to be the best way to help schools achieve their potential in improving competitive sport’, schools would be able to decide their own sports policies, free from a ‘centralised government blueprint’ (such as PESSYP and the targets of time spent in PE), but also free from the then £162m of funding from Government.

Hidden in the 'A New Youth Sport Strategy ‘ the Coalition Government (2010) outlined:

Department for Education

  • Funding for schools and teachers has been protected, but savings will have to be found by the Department for Education and ring fencing has been removed. This means that the £125-130million that the department sets aside for school sport will no longer be targeted. The potential impact of this is that the five hour offer will be reduced to two.
  • In addition, it is expected that all 400 sports colleges will lose their specialist status and as well as targeted funding for sport, worth £130,000 per school or £129 per child.
  • Individual schools will be expected to fund sport from their ordinary budgets, and it is likely that the only additional funding for school sport will be the School Olympics, which will come from the Lottery.
  • Ring-fencing of 162m for school sports partnerships (SSP) will cease, although after the scheme goes in summer 2011 (probably earlier in most cases to fund redundancy provision), the government is promising that £65m will be available in 2011-12 and 2012-13 to ensure one PE teacher per school is released for a day a week to ensure efforts to boost competitive sports are "embedded". The SSP’s often characterised as being over bureaucratic, target driven by government via the Youth Sports Trust, are attempting to develop a continued service to schools (particularly primary) in the form of a variety of business models that they are variously competent to construct and without the ‘legitimacy’ of the Youth Sport Trust, are likely to achieve only partial success.
  • The Youth Sports Trust (a charity established in 1994) principally funded by the Department for Education and overseeing work in what are currently 501 specialist sports colleges and the 450 SSPs, employing 160 and having a turnover in excess of £28m, will suffer a significant reduction in operation given the governments cuts. Whilst government have given the YST lead on the competition based ‘school games’ initiative, their core original objective of enabling specialist PE provision in primary schools appears to have been melted away; some argue that the original investment in the YST model was at the cost of specialist PE teacher provision in primary schools, a model adopted by Scottish schools.

The focus on the values associated with competitive sport and PE, irrespective of obvious political ideology interpretations, was already implicit in the sport policy of the previous government’s Playing to Win policy statement (2008-11) which was a departure from the ‘sport as social instrument’ philosophy that characterised Game Plan in 2002.

The Department for Culture Media and Sport in their December 2010 Olympic legacy policy update detail their position;

“The Government is committed to delivering a sporting legacy for young people, and to bringing back a culture of competitive sport in schools. School sport is in a good position in this country – and we give thanks to the thousands of people in schools, and in communities, who make sport happen every day. However, levels of competitive sport are not as high as they should be.

Just under four in ten pupils compete regularly against classmates and only two in ten compete regularly against those in other schools. This lack of competition may contribute to what happens when young people leave school. Sports participation drops off sharply – with the number of 16-19 year-olds doing sport falling by a third compared to 11-15 year olds. The cost is enormous, not just in terms of health, where one in four adults in this country is now classed as obese - the highest level in Europe - but also in terms of educational attainment, since teachers know that physical activity boosts concentration and feeds through directly into improved academic performance.

Truly vibrant sporting provision should not be subject to multiple conditions set within Whitehall. Instead, school sport should be part of a truly rounded education offered by every school. Our approach will be to get behind teachers and schools, and support them to work with parents, and within their local communities, to make Physical Education (PE) and school sport sustainable, and responsive to local needs.

The Department for Education has secured a good settlement for schools at a time when cutting the national deficit is an urgent priority. Schools value PE and sport and will continue to use their settlement to provide this for all pupils. The Department for Education has also announced that it will provide funding of £65 million for the school years 2011/12 and 2012/13, so that secondary schools can release a PE teacher to organise competitive sports, embed good practice and train primary teachers. This marks the transition from the previous Government’s top down Whitehall-led approach to giving freedoms to schools to deliver sport as they see fit.

To broaden the range of Olympic and Paralympic sports available to children and young people the Department of Health is providing funding of up to £6.4m over two years to secure the future of Change4Life Sports Clubs in secondary schools and to extend this model to primary schools. The extension of this programme will create further opportunities for those children who are least active.

To inspire kids across the country to choose sport, and to incentivise schools to set their ambitions high, we are also creating a new, inclusive School Games, for which every school will be invited to sign up. We have applied for the ‘Inspired by London 2012’ mark (which is awarded to high-quality non-commercial projects inspired by the 2012 Games) for this programme. This package of annual events at school, district, county and national level has the potential to engage and excite every child – whether they are trying a sport for the first time in primary school, or competing on behalf of their school at county level.

The development of the School Games is being led by the Youth Sport Trust (YST), who will work with Sport England, sports and other key partners to develop the new series of competitions over the next academic year 2011/12. This will involve a new series of intra-school competitions offered to schools; more competitions between schools available at district level; and festivals of competitive sport in every county and city – linked to a schools’ database to recognise and profile competition results. The first ever finals will be held in the Olympic Park in the run-up to the Games in 2012.

The new competitions will be supported by Lottery funding of up to £10m per annum. The Department of Health is also providing up to £14 million over the next two years to support levels of participation in the Games by primary schools, and to create further opportunities for those who are the least active and deliver the important health benefits associated with physical activity.

We are determined that the School Games builds on existing strengths of the school sport system, renews our focus on competitive sport for all, and delivers a truly inspirational sporting legacy for young people. Further detail around the package for school sport and the new School Games will be announced in the New Year.”

The PE world (in England at least) expressed dismay and disbelief at the announcement of Gove’s proposed demise of School Sports Partnerships and School Sports Co-ordinator programme and subsequent withdrawal of exchequer funding support of the Youth Sports Trust, citing (inter-alia):

‘The 2006 report found that school sport partnerships were helping to improve the quality of provision. This continues to be the case, particularly in the primary schools visited. The overall picture is one of success in improving opportunities for young people to engage in physical education and school sport.’ (Ofsted, 2009).

The association for physical education (AfPE) (2010) expressed their dismay, highlighting the direct impact on the quality of teaching and ultimately the experiences and opportunities of young people. The prospect of change meant the recently commissioned ‘High Quality Physical Education’ DVD was enclosed with the letter AfPE sent to the secretary of state, Michael Gove, to create an awareness of how exemplary practice in PE provides value for whole school standards (AfPE, 2010).

Gove and the government were however buoyed by the 'community of providers of physical activity and sports' (COMPASS) who provided a rather different narrative attempting to balance the negative stances that were expressed, stating that ‘school sport will not cease as a result of this cut’- implying that the education budget for PE and school sport, and in particular for SSP’s, was never intentionally planned to last the entire duration of the decade. They continue to argue that what has already been implemented provides a positive foundation upon which future provision can be built. Whilst they appear not to have sought to undermine the value and impact SSP’s have had, they imply that most headteachers and governors are now aware of PE’s capability as a cross-departmental subject, from the embedded viable and sustainable programme that has been created (COMPASS, 2010). As a result, they suggest that schools still have additional funding which could be used to continue the legacy.

Dismay and protest by teachers over these proposals to dismantle the infrastructure responsible for supporting PE and school sport, drove the Government into modifying the timescale of its decision. In a letter to Baroness Sue Campbell and school sports partnerships, Gove (2010b) wrote ‘we are committed to doing this through the creation of an annual Olympic-style school sport competition. The best way to create a lasting Olympic legacy in schools is to give them the freedom and incentives to organise it themselves, for themselves’. This will be in addition to £65m available for secondary schools to release a teacher, as a coordinator, for one day a week until 2012-13 (Collins & Kay, 2012) subsequently extended for a further two years.

Gove introduced the ‘school games’ initiative designed on the back of the run up to the London 2012 olympic and paralympic games, to boost existing work in PE and school sport to create a year-round calendar of competition for all students’. Government’s decision to focus on sporting competition and relieve schools of previous requirements (Collins & Kay, 2012) presents an array of positive and negative implications, potentially affecting the status and practice of PE, a sea change from the use of PE to engage pupils with a wider school and social agenda. The new competitive agenda then is perhaps in conflict with a wider social agenda of physical activity and health and as Roberts (2004, p.91) notes, ‘there is believed to be a problem in people failing to join sports clubs’ whereby the involvement in sport declines with age (Bloyce & Smith, 2010; Collins & Kay, 2012). This can perhaps be attributed to the notion that sport predominantly involves some sort of competition ‘a process of comparing skills ... to achieve a goal by outperforming another individual or team’ (Midura & Glover, 1999, p.5). This idea of being compared or put on public display is another issue that forms much debate for PE, yet for some young people, especially males, competitive club sport is an important aspect of their sporting lives and social identities. (DeKnop et al, 1998; Roberts, 2004; Telama et al, 2002; TNS, 2008). For girls however the womens sport and fitness foundation (WSFF, 2012) report that 51% of girls are put off sport by their experiences of PE in school and 45% think that sport is too competitive. Notwithstanding this and driven by London 2012 the coalition government has become committed to creating a lasting olympic legacy, whereby competition is embedded into the whole school ethos (DfE, 2011).

2012 School Games;

[Is competitive sport is inclusive or divisive?]

[extract from Youth Sport Trust 2012 - Sport Changes Lives ]

‘The School Games is organised and supported by a network of roles and organisations across the different levels of competition. The Youth Sport Trust has been commissioned by Sport England to provide developmental support to schools, National Governing Bodies of Sport and other local partners to help them develop, embed and run the School Games successfully.

School Games network

Two specific posts that work in and between schools to help them run the School Games are School Games Organisers and Teacher Release posts

Level 1: intra-school competition

Teacher Release posts

The Department for Education has made funding available to every secondary school in England to enable a PE teacher to be released one day a week to provide support for PE and school sport, both within their own school and across their family of feeder primary schools. The core tasks of the Teacher Release post are to help schools:

  • Create sustainable school sport competitions both within and between schools
  • Involve their staff, parents, local people, young leaders and volunteers in the delivery of competitive sport
  • Engage pupils in sport who are less active or who do not have equal access to opportunities to compete (e.g. disabled pupils).

School Sport Organising Committees

Young people can play a fundamental role throughout the School Games. School Sport Organising Committees are groups of young people who join together to lead the planning and delivery of school sport clubs and intra-school competition programmes in their school. They influence and shape the school sport offer for their peers through deciding on the types of competitions to be held, their structure and where and when they take place, making it more attractive and accessible for all young people.

Level 2: inter-school competition

School Games Organisers

School Games Organisers are roles funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Health to drive, develop and deliver the School Games across groups of schools. Both departments lead and drive the co-ordination and management of both the School Games and Change4Life sports clubs at a local level. There are 450 School Games Organisers nationally, all based is host schools across the country.

Level 3: county/area sport festivals

Local Organising Committees

A Local Organising Committee (LOC) is a county or area-wide strategic group established to plan and stage a high quality School Games Level 3 festival linked to competition at Levels 1 and 2 of the School Games. The LOC should have as a minimum representation from:

  • State and independent schools at a Head Teacher level
  • The County Sports Partnership
  • Local Government
  • Young people
  • NGBs and other local sports providers
  • Local disability sport.
  • School Games Organisers and Teacher Release posts should also have representation on this group.

Each LOC will be chaired by a Head Teacher and the group will be critical in identifying the opportunities to maximise the School Games and all it involves for the benefit of pupils, schools and the local community.’

[for further information about School Games visit; Youth Sport Trust 2012 - Sport Changes Lives ]


Despite the controversy, the conflicts and contradictions, the new national curriculum being introduced in 2014 develops PE as one of only four statutory subjects required by all four key stages (DfE, 2011). According to the department for education (DfE) (2010, p.45):

‘Children need access to high-quality physical education, so we will ensure the requirement to provide PE in all maintained schools is retained and we will provide new support to encourage a much wider take up of competitive team sports. With only one child in five regularly taking part in competitive activities against another school, we need a new approach to help entrench the character-building qualities of team sport’.

This statement from the ‘Importance of Teaching White Paper’ affirms the commitment of the coalition government in ensuring that PE ‘is given the status it deserves, to underwrite its rich contributions to other aspects of the curriculum (COMPASS, 2010, p.1); with its practice, although being changed, not being forfeited.


In March 2013 the Government announced 150m of funding for primary school sport (Sport Premium)

The Youth Sports Trust have provided the best initial analysis;

'This funding will be ring fenced, and will be allocated directly to primary schools across England, providing them with dedicated resource to buy in invaluable expertise and support. Whilst primary schools will be able to determine what they believe to be the most appropriate use of this funding, it is important to recognise that groups of schools will also be free to 'pool' their Sports Premium funding to ensure the greatest possible impact. Funding will be allocated through a lump sum for each school and a per-pupil top-up mechanism - a typical primary school with 250 pupils will receive around £9,250 each year.

In order to ensure all young people have access to high quality PE, schools will be required to publish details of their sporting provision on their websites. Elsewhere, the guidance provided to Ofsted inspectors will be amended in order to ensure they give PE and sport high priority when assessing the overall provision offered by schools. This guidance will direct inspectors to assess how well schools have used their Sport Premium funding to improve the quality and breadth of PE school sport and increase participation in both. Crucially, one year on from today's announcement, Ofsted will carry out a survey reporting on the impact of the new funding and holding schools to account on how they have spent their Sport Premium money.

Sue Campbell; Youth Sport Trust.....



In addition to the Sport Premium funding, the Prime Minister announced a series of measures designed to enhance the delivery of PE and school sport, and provide a lasting sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

These include:

  • Renewed funding from the Department for Education for the Young Ambassadors programme.
  • Reform of initial teacher training (ITT) in order to develop expertise in the delivery of PE in primary schools.
  • Funding for the Department for Education for (as yet unspecified) coaching and volunteering programmes, and those designed to improve the delivery of sport for young people with a disability.
  • £1.5 million of funding from Sport England to allow County Sports Partnerships to support national governing bodies of sport to provide specialist sports coaching in schools.'



Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Maria Miller said about this:

'This funding will give primary school children fantastic sport, and is the final piece in the 2012 sports legacy jigsaw. It complements our £1 billion youth and community sport strategy that is increasing opportunities for secondary school children to play more sport. I am very pleased that sports’ governing bodies are backing this move, which will help create a in this country where people play sport for life.'


Owen Gibson, chief sports correspondent of the Guardian reported that;

'Sports governing bodies such as the Football Association, the Rugby Football Union and the Lawn Tennis Association will be expected to provide coaches and improve their links with primary schools under the scheme. Premier League clubs have also promised to provide coaching and expertise.

A long running wrangle between the Department of Health, which is putting £60m a year into the new scheme and insisted the money be reserved for sport, and the Department for Education, which will invest £80m and wanted headteachers to be free to decide how to spend it, has been settled in favour of the DoH.

But individual primary schools will still be free to decide whether to spend the money on external coaches, teacher training or equipment. The funding will be made up of a lump sum per school with a per pupil top up, so a school with 250 pupils, for example, will get £9,250 a year.

However, the promised investment still does not match the £162m previously invested in a national network of school sports partnerships which was dismantled by Gove in December 2010. An outcry forced a partial U-turn, but the £65m promised to fund the day release of PE specialists into primary schools runs out in July.

The decision to scrap the school sports partnership, less than two years before London hosted an Olympic Games won on the basis that it would "inspire a generation", was heavily criticised by sports administrators, teachers and athletes.

Lord Coe, the London 2012 chairman and government legacy adviser, and health secretary Jeremy Hunt had strongly argued that money needed to be targeted at primary schools and ringfenced so it was only spent on sport. Gove was keen to maintain his principle of allowing schools to decide how to spend their budget, but has been persuaded to relent.

The announcement has been welcomed by gold medal-winning athletes as well as sports governing bodies, but there remain fears among some teachers that the investment is still not targeted enough and could result in a patchwork of provision. There are also concerns that it places too much emphasis on competitive sport over exercise.

As part of an attempt to redress the chronic lack of PE expertise among primary school teachers, a pilot scheme has also been set up to produce a cadre of teachers who are sport specialists. The first pilot will aim to produce 120 teachers in 2013.

"I am particularly pleased with the proposals around initial teacher training and continual professional development because I know from my own experience what an impact teachers and their engagement can have on the lives of young people," said Coe.

Cameron said: "With this new approach to sport, we can create a culture in our schools that encourages all children to be active and enjoy sport, and helps foster the aspirations of future Olympians and Paralympians."

Hunt said the new strategy would help tackle the growing obesity crisis among primary school children and help encourage healthy habits.

"I want our Olympic legacy to inspire more children to participate in sport and exercise to set them up for a healthy life. The overwhelming benefits of exercising more are clear, but with a third of children overweight by the age of 11 boosting sports provision in schools will help us tackle this country's obesity problem," he said.

The money from the Department of Health and the Department for Education will be augmented by £10m a year from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It will be charged with linking the scheme to its own investment of £1bn over five years in boosting sports participation in adults, with a particular focus on 14-25 year olds. Ofsted will be expected to monitor the provision of sport in schools.

However, the money is only guaranteed for the next two years and sports administrators will be keen to ensure that a longer term funding deal is put in place. Coe and others have called for a cross-party consensus on sport policy for the next decade.'


Political commentary aside, this March 2013 announcement of a partial return of funding to PE in Primary schools at least and represented a saving of face for the government in the context of the educational and social legacy of London 2012.

Although welcomed by some of the great and good of sport and indeed the six sport governing bodies named, the fact remains that PE policy remains constructed on competitive sport. This is reflected in the coalition’s revision of the National curriculum [draft] in 2013. Whilst sport as such and competitive sport particularly are a part of a physical education curriculum, 'sport' does not define PE in the wider context, especially at primary and foundation levels in school education. The value of Play and Games at these levels is not to be underestimated in the context of the wider physical, personal, social and moral development of children in state school education.

Cutting through the talent detection opportunities for the six governing bodies of sport and the face saving for a government in legacy rhetoric that this 150m represents, the one meaningful potential of this alteration to sport policy is that of the teacher training for specialist PE teachers at primary level, a development long overdue in England and Wales.






Association for Physical Education (AfPE). (2010). Letter to the Secretary of State. Retrieved 28th October 2011, from:

BBC News Politics (2010). Gove defends school sport 'cuts' amid athletes' anger. Retrieved 4th November 2011, from:

Blackburn, C.(2001). National Curriculum Physical Education Implementation in Primary Schools- A Case for Specialist Teachers. Bulletin of Physical Education, 37 (1), p.47-62.

Bloyce, D. and Smith, A. (2010). Sport Policy and Development: An introduction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Carney, C. and Chedzoy, S. (1998). ‘Primary student teacher prior experiences and their relationship to estimated competence to teach the national curriculum for physical education’,Sport Education and Society. 3 (1), p.19-36.

Collins, M. and Kay, T. (2012 in print). Sport and Social Exclusion. London: Routledge.

COMPASS. (2010). Letter to the Secretary of State for Education: Education budgets cuts and the school sport partnerships legacy. Retrieved 28th October 2011, from:

ContinYou (n,d). Physical Education and School Sport. Retrieved 3rd November 2011, from:

Cryer, J. (2009). Ruff Guide to Sport in Schools: PESSCL & PESSYP. Retrieved 8th November 2011, from:

Cryer, J. (2011). Ruff Guide to Coalition Sport Policy. Retrieved 8th November from:

Curtner-Smith, M. (1999). ‘The more things change the more they stay the same: Factors influencing teachers’ interpretations and delivery of national curriculum physical education’, Sport Education and Society, 4 (1), p. 75-97.

DeCorby, K., Halas, J., Dixon, S., Wintrup, L. and Janzen, H. (2005). ‘Classroom teachers and the challeneges of delivering quality physical education’, The Journal of Educational Research, 98 (4), p.208-220.

De Knop, P., Wylleman, P., Theeboom, M., De Martalaer, K. and van Hoecke, J. (1998). ‘Youth and organised sport in Flanders: past and future developments’, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 33, p. 299-304.

Department for Children, Schools and Families / Department for Culture, Media and Sport. (2010). Positive Activities: Good practice guidelines- Delivering sports arts and culture activities as part of the Friday/Saturday night offer.Annesley, Notts: DSCF.

Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). (2000). A Sporting Future for All. London: DCMS.

Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). (2008). Playing to Win: A New Era for Sport. London: DCMS.

Department for Education (DfE). (2010). The Importance of Teaching: The Schools White Paper 2010.London: DfE.

Department for Education (DfE). (2011). National Curriculum review launched. Retrieved 4th November 2011, from:

Department for Education and Skills (DfES)/ Department for Culture, Media and Sport. (2003). Learning through PE and Sport.London: DfES/ DCMS.

Department of National Heritage (DNH). (1995). Sport: Raising the Game. London: DNH

Flintoff, A. (2003). ‘The school sport coordinator programme: changing the role of the physical education teacher’, Sport Education and Society, 8 (2), p.231-250.

Flintoff, A. (2008). ‘Targeting Mr Average: participation, gender equity and school sport partnerships’, Sport, Education, and Society, 13 (4).

Gomm, R. (2004). Social Research Methodology: A Critical Introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Graham, G. (1991). ‘An overview of TECPEP’, Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 10 (4), p. 106-114.

Green, K. and Hardman, K. (2005). Essential Issues. London: SAGE.

Green, K., Smith, A. and Roberts, K. (2005). ‘Young people and lifelong participation in sport and PE: a sociological perspective on contemporary PE programmes in England and Wales’, Leisure Studies, 24 (1), p. 27-43.

Gove, M. (2010a). In the BBC’s ‘Michael Gove defends school sports funding change’. Retrieved 28thMarch 2011 from:

Gove, M. (2010b). Letter to Baroness Sue Campbell. Retrieved 28th October 2011 from:

Hardman, K. and Marshall, J. (2001). ‘World-wide survey on the state and status of physical education in school’ in: G. Doll-Tepper (Ed.) Proceedings of the world summit on physical education. Berlin: International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education.

Houlihan, B. And White, A. (2002). The politics of sports development: Development of sport or development through sport?London: Routledge.

Houlihan,B. and Green, M. (2006). ‘The changing status of school sport and physical education: explaining policy change’, Sport, Education and Society, 11 (1), p.73-92.

ICSSPE (2001). World Summit on Physical Education. Berlin: International Council for Sport Science and Physical Education.

Jeanes, R. (2000). ‘Catch ‘em young’. PE and Sport Today, 4, p.54-55.

Laker, A. (2000). Beyond the boundaries of Physical Education: Educating young people for citizenship and social responsibility. London: Routledge Falmer.

Laker, A. (2003). The future of Physical Education: Building a new pedagogy. London: Routledge.

Loughborough Partnership. (2005). School sport partnerships: monitoring and evaluation report 2004. Loughborough: Institute of Youth Sport, Loughborough University.

McNamee, M. (2005). ‘The Nature and Values of Physical Education’ in: K. Green & K. Hardman (Eds.) Essential Issues. London: SAGE.

Macfadyen, T. and Bailey, R. (2002). Teaching Physical Education 11-18. London: Contiuum.

Midura, D. and Glover, D. (1999). The competition-cooperation link: Games for developing respectful competitors. Leeds: Human Kinetics.

Morgan, P. and Bourke, S. (2005). ‘An investigation of preservice primary school teachers’ perspectives of PE teaching confidence and PE teacher education’, ACHPER Healthy Lifestyles Journal, 52 (91), p. 7-13.

Morgan, P. and Bourke, S. (2008). ‘Non-specialist teachers’ confidence to teach PE: the nature and influence of personal school experiences’, Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy: Official Journal of the Association for Physical Education, 13 (1), p. 1-29.

Neville, M. (2008). Evaluation of the New Opportunities for PE and Sport Initiative (NOPES) Five year report.Loughborough: Institute of Youth Sport.

O’Connor, A. (2003). ‘Can you hear me?’, PE and Sport Today, 13, p.6-7.

Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). (2002). The school sport co-ordinator programme: Evaluation of phases 1 and 2, 2001–2003. London: HMSO.

Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). (2003). The School Sport Co-ordinator programme: Evaluation of phases 1 and 2 2001–2003. London: Crown.

Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). (2004). The school sport partnership programme: Evaluation of phases 3 and 4, 2003. London: Office for Standards in Education.

Office for Standards in Education (Oftsed). (2009). Physical education in schools 2005/08: Working towards 2012 and beyond. London: Crown.

Parker, A. & Harris, J. (2009). Sport and Social Identities.Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke

Penney, D. and Evans, J. (1999). Policy, politics and practice in Physical Education. London: E. & F. Spon.

Penney, D. and Evans, J. (2005). ‘Policy, power and politics in Physical Education’ in: K. Green & K. Hardman (Eds.) Essential Issues. London: SAGE.

Pickup, I., Hayn-Davies, D. and Jess, M. (2007). ‘The importance of primary Physical Education’, Physical Education Matters, 2 (1), p. 8-11.

Pickup, I., Price, L., Shaughnessy, J., Spence, J. and Trace, M. (2008). Learning to Teach Primary PE. Exeter: Learning Matters.

QCA. (2007). Physical Education: Programme of Study for Key Stage 3 and Attainment Target. London: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Quick, S. and Goddard, S. (2004). Schools in the school sport partnership programme: PE, school sports and club links survey 2003–4. London: Department for Education and Skills.

Roberts, K. (2004). The Leisure Industries. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Roberts, K., Pollock, G., Tholen, J. and Tarkhnishvili, L. (2009). ‘Young leisure careers during post-communist transition in the South Caucasus’, Leisure Studies, 28 (3), p.261-277.

School Games (n,d). It’s your school games. Retrieved 4th November from:

Sport England. (2008). Sport England Strategy 2008-2011. London: Sport England.

Talbot, M. (2008). Ways forward for primary physical education. Physical Education Matters, 3 (1), p.6-8.

Telama, R., Naul, R., Nupponen, H., Rychtecky, A. and Vuolle, P. (2002). Physical Fitness, Sporting Lifestyles and Olympic Ideals: Cross-Cultural Studies on Youth Sport in Europe. Schorndorf: Hoffman.

TNS. (2008). School Sport Survey 2007/2008. London: TNS.

Wainwright, N. (2006). ‘Accessing learning through effective Physical Education’, Physical Education Matters, 1 (3).

Xiang, P., Lowy, S. and McBride, R. (2002). The impact of a field-based elementary physical education methods course on preservice classroom teachers’ beliefs. Journal of Teaching Physical Education. 21 (2), p. 145-161.

YST. (2010). Specialist Sports Colleges and School Sport Partnerships. Retrieved 2nd March 2011 from:


[ * images © Youth Sport Trust (2009 / 2012) : reproduced for educational purposes ]



We are grateful to Chloé Woodhouse (University of Gloucestershire) for the compilation of this Ruff Guide, additional material by Jon Cryer.


Bio: Chloé Woodhouse completed an undergraduate programme in Sport Education & Sports Development and MSc by research at the University of Gloucestershire; she is currently (2014-17) a funded Ph.D. student at Loughborough University; her Ph.D. study area is in the context of PE and Looked after Children.










Download this file (YST_GOResource.pdf)YST_GOResource.pdfYST. (2008). Every child matters through physical education and school sport. Loughborough: YST
Last Updated on Saturday, 08 March 2014 15:07  

Student Zone