Drawing on data from a broader study which investigated the place of sport and physical activity in the lives of 15—16 year olds in England and Wales, this paper examines a relatively neglected dimension of research in physical education, namely, young people's participation in sport and physical activity through National Curriculum Physical Education (NCPE). The paper reports upon data generated by questionnaires completed by 1010 15—16 year olds who attended six secondary schools in the North-West of England and one secondary school in the North-East of Wales during 2003 and 2004. The study revealed strong inter-school variations in the mixes of sports that pupils experienced within NCPE. More specifically, the findings revealed that NCPE was largely dominated by competitive team-based sports that tend to be gender-stereotyped, alongside more individualized and less-competitive physical activities. It was also clear, however, that the reported levels and forms of participation in different sports and physical activities in NCPE during Years 10 and 11 varied significantly and differentially according to gender, social class, the school which young people attended, specialist sports college status and whether youngsters studied GCSE PE. The paper concludes by suggesting that inter-school variations are probably explainable in terms of a combination of traditions, facilities and the enthusiasms and perceptions of PE teachers.