‘Evidence. What evidence?’: evidence-based policy making and School Sport Partnerships in North West England

Andy Smith, Richard Leech

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Based upon semi-structured interviews conducted with 14 representatives of one School Sport Partnership (SSP) in North West England, this paper examines several aspects of the policy and practice of the Partnership within a policy climate characterized by a preference for evidence-based policy making and practice. The findings indicate that providing young people with two hours of physical education and school sport (PESS) each week, and awarding primary schools with an Activemark, was central to the government's policy aspirations for SSPs, whilst considerably less attention was paid to the quality of pupils' experiences of PESS. All of the participants explained that where the SSP programme was monitored and evaluated, this was undertaken through self-completion of the Physical Education, School Sport and Club Links (PESSCL) survey, which they saw as an inadequate outcome-based evaluation measure designed to ensure that they were ‘hitting targets’ and ‘jumping through hoops’ to meet the government's objectives. Being constrained to engage in this essentially political exercise was encouraged by the insatiable appetite amongst policy-makers for simple, ‘killer facts’, as indicators of policy success and required participants to assemble ‘evidence’ in support of their contribution to delivering government's policy goals. It is concluded that, notwithstanding the alleged commitment to monitoring and evaluation, and to the need for assembling evidence of the effectiveness of the SSP programme, the frequency with which political imperatives dominated evidence meant that it is likely that evidence-based policy making and practice will remain very much an aspiration, rather than a reality, in the pragmatic world of policy making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-345
JournalInternational Journal of Sport Policy and Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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