Mapping the landscape of physical education external provision in Irish primary schools

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In Ireland, primary physical education (PE) is delivered by non-specialist classroom teachers. A growing number of primary schools are committing resources to external providers for partial delivery of the PE curriculum. Some researchers (Evans and Davies [2014; 2015]. “Neoliberal Freedoms, Privatisation and the Future of Physical Education.” Sport, Education and Society 20 (1): 10–26. doi:10.1080/13573322.2014.918878; Powell [2015]. “Assembling the Privatisation of Physical Education and the ‘Inexpert’ Teacher.” Sport, Education and Society 20 (1): 73–88. doi:10.1080/13573322.2014.941796) suggest the use of external providers in primary PE represents an increasing privatisation of the public education system. Thus, privatisation of PE raises questions about the future purpose, quality, and content of the subject. The goal of this paper is to identify the most common forms of external provision in support of PE in a small cohort primary schools. Network analysis was used to achieve a graphical representation of primary schools/external provision. Web pages of primary schools yielded data that allowed the creation of a social network analysis of external provision for 67 primary schools selected from the 2015/2016 list of Delivery of Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme. Results highlight that the most common forms of PE external provision in Irish primary schools are Gaelic Games (GAA), swimming, and dance and describe the network relationships between external provision types. Discussion provides possible reasons to justify the external provision trend for primary PE in Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-494
JournalIrish Educational Studies
Issue number4
Early online date4 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2020


  • primary physical education
  • outsourcing
  • network representation
  • physical education providers


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