L Sharpe Thesis.pdf (2.41 MB)
Download file

We want more: Breaking down disabling structures in inclusive sport. A multi-stakeholder examination of the UK School Games

Download (2.41 MB)
posted on 24.11.2021, 13:27 by Lesley SharpeLesley Sharpe
Whilst the inclusion of young people with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) in Physical Education (PE) has become a salient issue across policy, research and literature (Coates, 2010; Fitzgerald, 2012a; Maher, 2018; Haegele, 2019), inclusive school sport remains a neglected topic (Haycock and Smith, 2011). Previous research has consistently indicated that young people with SEND take part in less PE and school sport, are offered fewer opportunities to access all forms of sport and routinely face complex and persistent barriers that impede their participation (Valet, 2016; Darcy, Lock and Taylor, 2017a; Townsend, Cushion and Smith, 2018). Still young people with SEND are equally entitled to participate in school sport (Vickerman and Maher, 2019) which is an important platform to influence lifetime engagement and participation in sport and physical activity (Fitzgerald and Jobling, 2009b; Smith, 2009). Furthermore, the voices of young people with SEND are often omitted from research concerning their experiences of, and in, sport (Wickman, 2015).

Therefore, the purpose of this research was to examine how the School Games framework provides an inclusive school sport experience for young people with SEND and what these experiences teach us about inclusive sport. The research examines the perspectives and experiences of a range of key stakeholders who engage with the inclusive School Games framework. The participants were made up of structural stakeholders (n=8) (School Games Organisers, Active Partnerships, School Sport Development Managers, Lead Inclusion Schools and School Games managers), delivery stakeholders (n=3) (PE teacher, Senior Teaching Assistant and Assistant Head Teacher) and student stakeholders (n=18) (young people with SEND) who all have experience of inclusive school sport through the UK School Games framework.

The research employed a range of a qualitative methods including focus groups and semi-structured interviews with adult stakeholders, and an innovative piece of participatory research where young people with SEND became co-researchers and were supported to create vlogs to record their experiences and explore their perceptions of participating in inclusive school sport through the School Games framework.

Theoretically the research draws on the works of Pierre Bourdieu. First putting his concepts of Supply and Demand for sport from his Sport and Social Class essay (Bourdieu, 1978) to produce two literature reviews examining inclusive school sport and the emergence of the School Games in policy (supply) before examining literature concerning the development of inclusive school sport practice (demand). In the methodology Bourdieu’s an Invitation to Reflexive Sociology (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992) is used to guide the process of researcher reflexively. Finally, the conceptual tools outlined in Bourdieu’s (1984) Theory of Practice are used to collectively synthesise the findings from the three stakeholder groups.

The thesis contributes to addressing the omission of young people with SEND from research by prioritising their inclusion throughout the research processes, using contemporary participatory and digital approaches. These served to capture, amplify and broadcast the voices of the co-researchers. Including a wider stakeholder sample the thesis helps to address the dearth of insight surrounding the inclusive School Games and school sport knowledge. Findings highlight the persistent tensions and challenges at play within the field which perpetuate the precarity of inclusive provision and leave young people with SEND wanting more.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


Loughborough University

Rights holder

© Lesley Sharpe

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Loughborough University.




Janine Coates ; Carolynne Mason ; Emma Pullen

Qualification name


Qualification level


This submission includes a signed certificate in addition to the thesis file(s)

I have submitted a signed certificate