Special educational needs in mainstream secondary school physical education: learning support assistants have their say.

Anthony Maher

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

29 Citations (Scopus)


Learning support assistants (LSAs) gained more political and academic attention in Britain after Estelle Morris announced that schools of the future would include more trained staff to support learning to higher standards. LSAs, thus, should form an integral part of the culture of all school departments in Britain, including physical education (PE). The paper uses Antonio Gramsci’s concept of hegemony to explore the processes and practices that shape the views and experiences of LSAs and ultimately the extent to which they facilitate an inclusive culture in PE. A web survey gathered the views and experiences of LSAs vis-à-vis the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in mainstream secondary school PE in North-West England. A modified version of the tailored design method participant contact strategy resulted in 343 LSAs starting the web survey, with 154 (45%) following it through to completion. All quantitative data were analysed using Microsoft Excel whilst qualitative data were subjected to thematic analysis. This entailed the identification of recurring themes and patterns present in the data. The findings highlight the hegemonic status of English, maths and science when it comes to the allocation of SEN resources, which most LSAs support and often reinforce. PE is particularly disadvantaged in this hierarchy of subject priority. The majority of LSAs have not received PE-specific training, which brings into question their ability to facilitate inclusion in PE. Moreover, many schools do not appear to value the involvement of LSAs in the planning of differentiated lessons, which could have a negative impact on the PE experiences of some pupils with SEN given that LSAs are perhaps most aware of the specific learning needs of the pupils they support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-278
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Apr 2014


  • Hegemony
  • Inclusive education
  • Learning support assistants
  • Physical education
  • Special educational needs


Dive into the research topics of 'Special educational needs in mainstream secondary school physical education: learning support assistants have their say.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this