Physical education, school sport and looked-after-children: Health, wellbeing and educational engagement

In recent years, there has been unprecedented awareness within policy and research of the disadvantageous trajectories that looked-after children and young people (LACYP) often face; particularly in relation to their education, health and wellbeing (Sebba et al., 2015; Mannay et al., 2017). Despite the perceived capacity of sport, physical activity and physical education to contribute to young people’s positive development (e.g. Bailey et al., 2009; Holt, 2016), relatively few studies have considered the place of such activities in the lives of LACYP or the impact that being looked-after can have on individuals’ engagements with them. Presenting findings from a small-scale, qualitative study of LACYP in England, this paper explores the ways in which physical education and school sport (PESS) might be contextualised against broader life circumstances and experiences of care. Placing the personalised accounts of a group of LACYP alongside those of physical education (PE) teachers and local authority professionals, the paper examines varied perspectives and experiences of PESS and its relevance to LACYP. In particular, it highlights the extent to which the vulnerabilities of LACYP status may impact young peoples’ perceptions of health, wellbeing and educational engagement in this field. The paper concludes by suggesting that whilst PESS may be seen to present a number of social, emotional and health benefits for LACYP, when located against a backdrop of broader life-course vulnerability, such benefits may be de-prioritised by those concerned.