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Simplistic policy, skewed consequences : taking stock of English physical education, school sport and physical activity policy since 2013.

Lindsey, I. and Metcalfe, S. and Gemar, A. and Armstrong, J. and Alderman, J. (2020) 'Simplistic policy, skewed consequences : taking stock of English physical education, school sport and physical activity policy since 2013.', European physical education review. .


The period from 2013 to 2019 was one of relative continuity in policies for physical education (PE), school sport and physical activity (PESSPA) in England. Starting from the advent of the government’s flagship PE and Sport Premium (PES Premium) initiative in 2013, the end of the period was reached 20 with renewed uncertainty in 2020 about the future of PESSPA policy. It is therefore an appropriate point for this article to ‘take stock’ of PESSPA policies and their consequences since 2013. The political science literature on policy design underpins the approach to considering the mix of both policy goals and those instruments used by governments to achieve them. To do so, a comprehensive set of policy documents, published reports, academic literature and empirical research on schools’ use of the PES Premium was interrogated. Policy goals articulated by government since 2013 reinforced, rather than resolved, long-standing debates about the purpose of PESSPA. Health-related objectives rose in prominence, but sat uneasily alongside continued commitments to competitive sport. Only a narrow range of the policy instruments available to governments were used in pursuit of their policy goals. PES Premium funding was solely distributed to primary schools, with limited use of regulation and information systems to shape PESSPA provision. These aspects of policy design contributed to increasing reliance on external coaches in primary schools and indicators of a decline in secondary school provision and participation, resonant of prioritisation of short-term approaches over longer-term strategic development. Possibilities for improving future PESSPA policies are considered as a result.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Date accepted:12 June 2020
Date deposited:12 June 2020
Date of first online publication:22 July 2020
Date first made open access:02 July 2020

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