School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


a man measuring a wall chart and two people watching

Life course and Transitions

Research in this area addresses the changing context by which transitions throughout the life course shape the motivations and opportunities to engage with sport.

This ranges from a consideration of Physical Education/Physical Development in the school curriculum/preschool settings, post-compulsory and voluntary engagement in competitive and recreational sport and exercise typically undertaken by younger adults, through to changing forms of sport and exercise associated with enhancing the physical activity of an ageing population.

Recent projects

Mapping a Physical Literacy Pathway

Dr Carolynne Mason, Dr Rebecca Duncombe, Dr Julie Stirrup, Dr Rachel Sandford

Project Description:

A research project funded by Leicester-Shire and Rutland Sport which seeks to map the requirements around/provision of Early Years physical activity and physical development opportunities for children aged 0-5 in the region. It also involves the development of a draft 'Pathway' and related resources that could help to inform, support and improve practice in this area. The work has recently been presented at the AIESEP international conference in Madrid and helped to support a proposal to establish an Early Childhood Special Interest Group in the AIESEP network, which was ultimately successful. 

See more on the website →

Supporting secondary schools in the effective promotion of physical activity

Dr Lorraine Cale; Dr Jo Harris

Project Description:

Funded by the British Heart Foundation this study focused on the role of secondary schools in effectively promoting physical activity, the specific aims of which were: to establish the needs of schools with respect to the promotion of physical activity; to develop, implement and evaluate support for schools to effectively promote physical activity; and to evaluate the impact of the support on schools, teachers and young people.  A mixed methods approach was adopted for the study involving an online survey emailed to all state secondary schools in the UK and eight case studies centred on randomly selected state secondary schools from eight (of the nine) Government regions in England.  Within each case study school, face to face interviews were conducted with teachers, focus groups were organised with pupils aged 11-15 years, and telephone interviews took place with parents. 


Cale, L., Harris, J & Duncombe, R. (under review). Promoting physical activity in secondary schools: growing expectations, same old issues, European Physical Education Review.

Cale, L., Harris, J. & Duncombe, R. (2015). Supporting Secondary Schools in Promoting Physical Activity: Issues and Needs.  AIESEP World Congress, Madrid, Spain, October 2015.

Harris, J., Cale, L., Musson, H. & Duncombe, R.  (2015). Young people’s (mis)information, (mis)understandings and (mis)conceptions about health, fitness and physical activity. 29th ACHPER International Conference, 13th- 15th April 2015, Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, South Australia.

Harris, J., Cale, L., Duncombe, R. & Musson, R. Helping secondary schools to effectively promote physical activity, European Educational Research Association Conference, Cadiz, Spain, September 2012.

Musson, H., Duncombe, R., Harris, J. & Cale, L. Young people’s knowledge, understanding and misconceptions about health, fitness and physical activity, European Educational Research Association Conference, Cadiz, Spain, September 2012. 

Harris, J., & Leggett, G. (2015). Testing, training and tensions: The expression of health within physical education curricula in secondary schools in England and Wales. Sport, Education and Society, 20 (3-4): 423-441.

Harris, J. (2014). Physical education teacher education students' knowledge, perceptions and experiences of promoting healthy, active lifestyles in secondary schools. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 19 (5): 466-480.

Harris, J., & Leggett, G. (2013). Influences on the expression of health within physical education curricula in secondary schools in England and Wales.  Sport, Education and Society. DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2013.853659.

Armour, K., & Harris, J. (2013). Making the case for developing new PE-for-health pedagogies. Quest, 65(2): 201-219

Cognitive function and sport participation in children and adolescents with learning disabilities

Stephan Bandelow, Eef Hogervorst


University of Iceland (Sigurbjörn Árni Arngrímsson and Ingi Þór Einarsson)

KU Leuven (Daniel Daly)

Project Description

Research into the relationship between intellectual/cognitive abilities and sports/exercise participation in a sample of 180+ typically developed and intellectually impaired (II) children/adolescents (ages 6-16) from the larger Reykyavik, Iceland area. This sample includes more than 80% of all young people with II in the area and is thus highly representative for the population. We measured cognitive function (memory, attention, abstract visual abilities) development during ages 6-15 between II and control groups from a mixed school system, as well as exercise participation and fitness to assess the relationship between fitness, sport participation and cognitive abilities.

Collaborators:, Sigurbjörn Árni Arngrímsson


Arngrimsson, S. A., Gardarsdottir, S., Einarsson, I. T., Bandelow, S., Johannsson, E., & Daly, D. (2013). Level of Intellectual Disability is Associated with Fitness but not Adiposity among Intellectually Disabled Children. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 45(5), 265–265.

Bandelow, S. Einarsson, I. Þ., Hogervorst, E., Daly, D. Arngrímsson, S.Á (submitted) Cognitive function in typically developed and intellectually disabled children and adolescents: implications for educational environments, Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

Evaluation of the Cambridge House ‘Playdagogy’ Project

Evaluation of the Cambridge House ‘Playdagogy’ Project

Dr Rachel Sandford, Professor Richard Giulianotti & Dr Angharad Beckett (University of Leeds)

Project Description

The Cambridge House (CH) ‘Playdagogy’ programme is an initiative that seeks to use sport as a vehicle to facilitate young people’s understanding of disability, impairment and inclusion. The programme employs a methodology developed by PL4Y International within a European context (now employed internationally) of conveying educational messages via the medium of sport-based games and physical activities. As such, Playdagogy can be seen to contribute to a growing body of international work on positive youth development and sport for development, whereby there is an acknowledgement of the ‘power of sport’ to excite and engage young people, offer opportunities to enhance personal, social and moral development and contribute more widely to sustainable social developments. In focusing on promoting understandings of inclusion and disability through sport-based games, Playdagogy also reflects a growing recognition of the importance of ensuring inclusion and equity in sport for disabled young people. An evaluation of the Playdagogy programme, funded by Cambridge House, was undertaken collaboratively by Loughborough University and the University of Leeds between January and December 2015. Employing a predominantly qualitative methodology, the research was able to explore the thoughts/experiences of all involved with the design and delivery of Playdagogy, with a particular focus on participant ‘voice’. Key findings included the potential of the programme to help equip practitioners to deliver inclusive sport/physical activity, offer a range of positive benefits to young participants (including social/communication skills) and contribute positively to the cross-curricular offer within schools. The evaluation also highlighted points for consideration with regard to the ongoing design, development and delivery of the Playdagogy programme. Although now completed, this evaluation research helped to establish a positive working relationship with CH (ongoing) and fed into subsequent collaborative research with the University of Leeds (ongoing evaluation of a mixed ability sport programme, funded via Sport England).


Outputs (to date)

Sandford, R. & Giulianotti, R. (2016) Evaluation of the Cambridge House Playdagogy Programme: Final Research Report (Strand 1). Loughborough University.

Sandford, R., Beckett, A. & Giulianotti, R. (2017) Playing with Ideas: Facilitating young people’s understanding of disability, impairment and inclusion through sport-based games. To be presented at the European Conference for Educational Research, Copenhagen (August). [journal paper to follow]

Gilsenan, C., Zipfel, R. & Sandford, R. (2017) Playdagogy: Using Sports Based Games to Educate About Inclusion, Disability, and Difference. A practitioner workshop to be presented at the Association for Physical Education conference, St George’s Park (July).


Related Research

Evaluation of the Multi-Activity Sport Development Programme     (Nov 2016- Jun 2018). Dr Jen Dyer, Dr Rachel Sandford & Dr Angharad Beckett. Funded by Sport England (£25,000)