A Contextual Analysis of the Factors Affecting the Physical Education, Physical Activity, and School Sport of Primary School Children in England

  • Vanessa King

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Researchers have acknowledged the need for alternative considerations to help address the ongoing debate regarding the provision of physical education, school sport, and physical activity in primary aged children. This PhD thesis adopted a socioecological perspective to examine the cumulative impact of contextual factors, including socioeconomic setting, school, home, and higher-level policy on the development of child motor coordination, and health and wellbeing. Chapter 1 offers an introduction, sets out the aims of the thesis, offers the philosophical underpinnings and gives an insight into the structure of the thesis. Chapter 2 presents a review of literature pertaining to the development of fundamental movement skills at primary school level in the context of current debate concerning initial teacher training and the physical education and school sport premium. Based on suggestions in the literature that information and communication technology may offer a means to facilitate physical education practice, Chapter 3 adopts a positivist approach, considering the use of video modelling as a tool to support the delivery of physical education lessons. Results indicated that video modelling could benefit practice, particularly in support of generalist teachers who may feel they lack the motor skills to model movements or the knowledge to provide feedback. Results also indicated differences in children of differing socio-economic settings, with children of low socioeconomic status being lower in motor competency than children of high socioeconomic status, evident at baseline and in response to the video modelling intervention. This highlighted the need for greater consideration of the contextual factors that affect the development of motor competencies.
Chapter 4 reviewed literature highlighting the nested environmental layers that may impact upon children’s skill acquisition and health and wellbeing, to inform Chapter 5, which adopted an epistemological approach by utilising a social-ecological approach to examine the perspectives of elite stakeholders upon the development, implementation, and effectiveness of physical education and sport policy in England. This demonstrated the complexity of the multi-layered contextual influences operating at all levels from the government through to the more proximal affects, including the home.. Chapter 6 gave a deeper insight into the specific constraints children in low socio-economic communities experience by adopting an epistemological approach to examine primary stakeholders’ perceptions on how socio-economic status impacts primary physical education, physical activity and school sport in England. This highlighted the cumulative effect of environmental constraints operating from conflicting government policies to the economic and social constraints in the community, home, and school. Collectively, the factors severely impact upon children from low socio-economic settings, affecting the development of motor competencies and engagement in physical activity across all aspects of daily-life.
This thesis contributes to a widening evidence-base questioning current development, implementation, and effectiveness of physical education, school sport, and physical activity policy and in particular how this affects children of low socio-economic status. The thesis points towards the need to urgently develop new initiatives that are multi-layered and underpinned by strategic policy that is responsive to socioecological factors that affect children. This is needed now in order to respond to decreasing engagement in physical activity in primary aged children, in order to support the development of child motor competencies, enabling all children to engage positively in physical education, and impact positively upon their future attitudes and engagement in physical activity.
Date of Award19 Oct 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorMatt Miller-Dicks (Supervisor), Chad Witcher (Supervisor) & Richard Thelwell (Supervisor)

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