The involvement of external agencies in extra-curricular physical education: reinforcing or challenging gender and ability inequities?

Shaun Wilkinson*, Dawn Penney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Within the UK and internationally, schools are increasingly being encouraged to call on external agencies and draw on the services of individuals, including sport coaches, to ‘help teach or lead sports within the school setting and out of school time’. This trend arises from and has contributed to a changing policy landscape and relations that characterise ‘physical education and school sport’ (PESS) and the growing use of the terminology of ‘PESS’. Previous research has highlighted that neither PESS considered broadly as a policy space, nor specific initiatives centring on ‘partnership-based’ development of physical education (PE) and/or sport in schools, can be assumed to facilitate greater equity in provision for young people. This study reports on research that has sought to build on past studies revealing gender and ability inequities amidst PESS developments. The research was designed as a small-scale case study investigation to critically explore the equity-related messages being conveyed in and through the hidden curriculum in a context of coaches’ involvement in extra-curricular provision. Utilising observations and interviews with coaches and PE teachers, data collection focused on ways in which ideas of ability, masculinity and femininity were being constructed and reproduced in and through coach's pedagogy, and sought insight into the prospective impact of the particular constructions on girls’ and boys’ involvement in extra-curricular PE. Analysis revealed that the hidden curriculum expressed in and through the organisation of extra-curricular PE and coaches’ pedagogical practices in this context can be seen as reaffirming limited conceptions of ability in PE and gender inequity in relation to girls’ and boys’ respective participation opportunities. Discussion critically addresses the relationship between policy and pedagogy in PESS in pursuing apparently ongoing tendencies for long-standing inequities to be reproduced in and through extra-curricular provision.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-758
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2014


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