school sport edit1

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New research has examined the role of football clubs in the delivery of physical education and school sport across England, and questioned the need for greater evaluation.

Football clubs lie at the heart of many communities and, as such, they can have an important and distinctive role to play in introducing young people to sport and other physical activities.

This role has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. The advent of a new ‘PESS’ (Physical Education and School Sport) strategy in England in 2013, accompanied by a £450million investment into school sport, brought the role of clubs into sharp focus.

The challenges outlined by academics in recent research, developed as part of a special edition focused on Football and Health Improvement, became even more pertinent given the recent joint funding committed by both the English Premier League and Government.

Previously changes led by the Conservative Secretary of State, Michael Gove, in 2010 had seen the first attempts to dismantle the established School Sports Partnerships. However now headteachers have control of the budget to fund external provision of their activities, meaning that decision-making has been decentralised. This change has seen the emergence of external providers, including football clubs.

As the clubs and their respective community programmes have stepped forward to answer the call, it is important to ask how they are faring.

This new research by Parnell and colleagues (2015), published in the peer review Journal Soccer and Society, uses semi-structured interviews with community managers from football community programmes and headteachers to reveal key themes. The research points towards greater partnership working between football clubs and schools, in a bid to need to raise the quality of coaching.

With stakeholders such as the Premier League making a major investment into PE and School Sport, this current research shows the need for more action from all stakeholders involved. The three most important actions include:

1 Developing the scope of partnerships between clubs and school.

2 Developing the roles and skill-set of the community coaches working in school to achieve greater impact for PE and School Sport.

3 Tackling the deficit of high-quality, rigorous research and evaluation.

In simple terms the badge of the local football club, whilst appealing to many, is not in itself a guarantee of effectiveness. Acting on the call from this research, those involved must begin to develop more effective practice. Moreover, the research warns that without proper monitoring and evaluation “we can only speculate on how PESS can contribute to lifelong participation in children and young people”.

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Dr Dan Parnell is an active researcher and senior lecturer in Business Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. His research interests cover the sport and leisure sectors within the UK and he works globally on a number of projects, in particular the social role of sport. This includes the Football League Trust, the English Premier League, the Football Foundation and Barclays Spaces for Sports. Contact d.parnell@mmu.ac.uk or follow @parnell_daniel on Twitter.

Dr Ed Cope is a lecturer in Sports Coaching and Performance at the University of Hull. He has extensive experience in coach education and pedagogy. Ed’s research centres on understanding how children perceive and experience sport. He is leading a novel research project for the International Olympic Committee and has worked within the team for the School Offer Review for the English Premier League. Contact ed.cope@hull.ac.uk or follow @EdCope1 on Twitter.

Dr Richard Bailey is an international recognised authority on sport, physical activity and human development. He has directed studies which have influence policy and practice both nationally and internationally. He is a former Primary and Secondary schoolteacher, teacher trainer, coach and coach education. He works with agencies such as sportcoachUK, UNESCO, the World Health Organisation, the European Union and the International Olympic Committee. He was also lead consultant for the influential ‘Designed to Move’ agenda and directed the School Offer Review for the English Premier League. Contact baileyrichard1@me.com or follow @DrDickB on Twitter.

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