Inclusion of pupils with SEN into mainstream physical education: potential research ideas to explore issues of engagement

Anthony Maher, Clive Palmer

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


One consequence of the 1981 Education Act (DES, 1981) was that there began a transference of pupils from special educational schools to mainstream schools over the coming years. Thus, for the first time in many cases, mainstream schools were expected, through policy developments, to provide an inclusive education culture for pupils with SEN (Special Educational Needs). The aim of this paper is to analyse some of the consequences, intended or otherwise, of including pupils with SEN in mainstream school National Curriculum Physical Education (NCPE) lessons and extracurricular physical activity. In this regard, it is argued that team games and competitive sports are activities which teachers find particularly difficult to plan for and deliver in an inclusive way, whereas more individual activities such as dance, gymnastics, tennis, badminton and athletics are identified as activities that may be easier to plan and deliver inclusively. The paper is punctuated with potential field research ideas; that is, possible investigations prompted by this critique of literature. These ideas typically involve suggestions for primary data gathering in the school setting with either pupils or staff, exploring issues for engagement (and non-engagement) with PE and physical activity. The paper concludes that an over emphasis upon competitive team sports and performance in PE may be eroding the quality of learning experience for all pupils, not least those with SEN.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-48
JournalJournal of Qualitative Research in Sports Studies
Issue number1
Early online date1 Nov 2012
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Nov 2012


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