Government and physical education

Kirk, David; Capel, Susan and Blair, Richard, eds. (2019) Government and physical education. In: Debates in Physical Education. Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 3-17. ISBN 9781138580664

[thumbnail of Kirk-Routledge-2019-Government-and-physical-education]
Text. Filename: Kirk_Routledge_2019_Government_and_physical_education.pdf
Accepted Author Manuscript

Download (425kB)| Preview


Government is involved in physical education primarily in two ways, through legislating for national curricula for schools and through the development of sport policy. Behind this relatively simple statement, however, lies a tangled web of complexity. Complexity is an enduring feature of the governance and organisation of sport in the UK generally, and of physical education’s relationship to sport more specifically (Green, 2008). Within such complexity, debates are bound to take place. In this chapter, we will explore some of the lines of debate that constitute the tangled web of the relationship of government and physical education. One line of debate centres on what we mean by ‘government’ and ‘physical education’. As we reflect on this issue and the questions it raises, other lines of debate emerge. Some of these criss-crossing lines are: the ‘relative autonomy’ of educational systems, the operation of power and vested interests, participation versus elite sport, neoliberal practices in education and sport, the role of academic research in policy development, and the obdurate challenge of educational change. In order to follow these lines of debate, we can draw on insights offered by fields such as sport policy, educational policy sociology, and curriculum studies. The chapter follows these debates and the cross-cutting and inter-related insights to them offered by these fields of study. After a brief definition of the core notions of ‘government’ and ‘physical education’, the chapter considers in turn the two main points of connection, national curricula and sport policy. For the sake of coherence in the chapter, the examples and evidence are from the UK, with a particular focus on developments in England. Readers who do not have experience of the UK are invited to consider the extent to which events in other countries do or do not follow the patterns outlined here.