This research, conducted by Leeds Beckett University, aimed to explore the role and value of physical education and sport in Alternative Provision settings. Research activities included an online survey, interviews and focus groups with practitioners, and focus groups and case study visits with young people.
Survey findings revealed that 90% of alternative provision providers deliver some form of physical education, though less (78%) suggested that physical education was compulsory. In addition, physical education seems to be delivered by a range of individuals with just 57% suggesting it was delivered by a specialist physical education teacher, 46% suggesting it was delivered by a generalist classroom teacher, and 30% reporting that it was delivered by a sports coach.
In addition, one of the main purposes for physical education and sport in alternative provision schools is the development of physical and mental health, emphasised because of its claimed role in improving cardiovascular health and reducing childhood obesity. Developing social skills was also seen to be an important purpose to ease the transition back to mainstream school, and for life in general, both outside of and once young people have left school.
A range of barriers were identified to delivering physical education and sport in alternative provision schools. These include, but were not limited to, teacher confidence and competence, and a perceived lack of pedagogical content knowledge. Pupil needs and abilities, their behaviour, confidence and competence, and motivation were also reported as key barriers. Most prominent however, was the space available to teach in. For instance, just 57% reported having access to an outdoor playground, while more than half (51%) did not have access to a dedicated indoor space for the delivery of physical education. Furthermore, the standard of equipment and facilities, and the challenges of employing staff with relevant expertise were also cited, with qualitative data highlighting a ‘recruitment crisis’. Finally, negative perceptions and stigma of the young people who attend alternative provision from those in the local community, and a lack of financial support were also reported as key barriers.