Journal Article

Reproduction in physical education, society and culture: the physical education curriculum and stratification of social class in England


In contemporary British society, discussions of social class have become relatively marginalised in comparison to their historically eminent position within the domains of politics, social policy and, the specific focus of the forthcoming discussion, education. However, within the specific field of PE and sport, contemporary academic analyses have continued to highlight various class-based inequalities and evidence of social stratification in relation to these areas of education and society (Evans, 2014; Evans & Bairner, 2013; Evans & Davies, 2008, 2014; Horne et al., 2011). In light of this, this study seeks to explore the extent to which social class and socio-economic status are evident within the provision of PE within 288 English state secondary education schools (11-18 years of age), drawing upon the findings of a large-scale survey of the activities and qualifications offered within the PE curriculum at each sample school. Using publicly available data on the comparative provision levels of ‘free school meals’ (henceforth FSM) for pupils as an approximate indicator of the relative levels of socio-economic demographics for each sample school, this study seeks to explore how English state schools with contrasting levels of socio-economic deprivation cater for their students within their PE curriculum. The emergent results revealed some trends in the relative provision levels of certain activities across schools in different FSM quartiles, with activities such as rugby union, rugby league, Gaelic football, tennis, and field hockey demonstrating stratified provision, as was the case for the provision of accredited academic and vocational qualifications in PE and sport. These complex and nuanced findings are then critiqued by drawing upon a Bourdieusian theoretical conceptualisation of social class, utilising a number of theoretical concepts derived from Bourdieu’s past analyses of education and sport to critically reflect upon the validity of his theoretical claims when applied to this specific data set.

Attached files


Whigham, Stuart
Hobson, Michael
Batten, John
White, Adam J.

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Sport, Health Sciences and Social Work


Year of publication: 2019
Date of RADAR deposit: 2019-05-14

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Related resources

This RADAR resource is the Accepted Manuscript of Reproduction in physical education, society and culture: the physical education curriculum and stratification of social class in England


  • Owner: Daniel Croft
  • Collection: Outputs
  • Version: 1 (show all)
  • Status: Live
  • Views (since Sept 2022): 444