To be (physically active) or not to be? That is the question! Special educational needs, physical education and leisure lifestyles

Anthony Maher

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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The UK’s coalition government released a statutory national curriculum in September 2014 that specified the programmes of study and attainment targets for each subject in all local authority-maintained mainstream schools in England (DfE, 2013). The aim of this short article is to debate the potential impact of the 2014 national curriculum physical education (NCPE) on the long-term participation in physical activity as an aspect of the leisure lifestyles of pupils identified as having special educational needs (SEN). Positive early learning experiences in mainstream PE are supposed to have a significant impact on the lifelong participation in physical activity as part of young people’s leisure lifestyles (Kirk, 2005), including those with SEN. While attempts to address lifelong physical activity as part of people’s leisure often focuses on young people generally, and their experiences of PE in particular, the needs of those with SEN are rarely considered by government, schools, service providers or academics. Of course, differences in national legislation, education structures, funding mechanisms, school priorities and conceptualisations of SEN will influence the PE experiences of pupils with SEN in other countries (EADSNE, 2003) and, therefore, future lifestyles. Particular light is cast in the direction of the UK’s newest NCPE given that the position of team games and competitive sport appears to have been strengthened, rather than challenged, in mainstream secondary schools despite research suggesting that (1) it is more difficult to meet the needs and capitalise on the capabilities of pupils with SEN when these activities are delivered (Fitzgerald, 2005; Morley et al., 2005; Smith, 2004); and (2) that the traditional, structured and hierarchical sport-based PE curriculum is at odds with the lifestyle activities of adults, which can influence whether young people carry on participating in physical activity into adulthood (Wheaton, 2010).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-201
JournalJournal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jun 2015


  • Leisure Lifestyles
  • Lifelong Physical Activity
  • National Curriculum
  • Physical Education
  • Special Educational Needs.


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