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

Exploring learning and development in Forest School

Janine Coates; Helena Pimlott-Wilson

Project description

This research explored the impact of an outdoor education programme, known as Forest School, on children’s learning and development. Forest School is increasingly being adopted by early years and primary school settings in the UK to encourage learning outside of the classroom and to facilitate children’s active engagement with the environment to promote cognitive, social and physical skill development. Using play-pedagogy, children are offered the opportunity to take part in a range of, often physical, activities set natural woodland settings. This can include tree-climbing, sensory games, tool-use, fire-lighting and crafting. This study qualitatively examined learning and development in Forest School through interviews with children, Forest School leaders and headteachers in two case study primary schools in the East Midlands, UK. 


  • Coates, J. (forthcoming). Physical Development Through Outdoor play: The example of Forest School, in R. Duncombe, The Physical Development Needs of Young Children, London: Routledge.
  • Coates, J. & Pimlott-Wilson, H. (2017). Learning in the Forest: Children's Experiences of Engaging in a Forest School Programme. Individual Presentation. British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of West Sussex, UK. September 2017
  • Coates, J. K., & Pimlott‐Wilson, H. (2018). Learning while playing: Children's Forest School experiences in the UK. British Educational Research Journal. DOI: 10.1002/berj.3491
  • Pimlott-Wilson, H. & Coates, J. (2017). Are we really learning? Forest School programmes from the perspective of children. Individual Presentation. Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference, London, UK. August 2017.
  • Pimlott-Wilson, H. & Coates, J. K. (under revision). Rethinking learning?: Challenging and accommodating neoliberal educational agenda in the integration of Forest School into mainstream educational settings. The Geographical Journal

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)

  • Gilsenan, C., Zipfel, R. & Sandford, R. (2017Playdagogy: 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).
  • Sandford, R., Beckett, A. & Giulianotti, R. (2017Playing 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]
  • Sandford, R. & Giulianotti, R. (2016Evaluation of the Cambridge House Playdagogy Programme: Final Research Report (Strand 1). Loughborough University. 

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)

Promoting Individual, Organisational and Group Health through Workplace Team Sport Participation

Dr Andrew Brinkley, Dr Hilary McDermott, Dr Fehmidah Munir

Project description:

This project utilised mixed methods to investigate the benefits of participation in workplace team sport.  A 12-week team sport intervention programme for the workplace ‘Changing the Game’ was implemented and evaluated for its impact on individual (e.g., fitness, wellbeing), social-group (e.g., communication, relationships, cohesion) and organisational (e.g., individual and team performance, work-engagement) outcomes. The intervention design was underpinned by the Self-Determination Theory. A process-evaluation (Study five) was conducted to assess the delivery and mechanism of impact of Changing the Game. The findings showed that the 12-week workplace team sport programme significantly improved VO2 Max, interpersonal communication within teams, and mean weekly physical activity duration in the intervention group compared to the control group.

Collaborators: Severn Trent Water


  • Brinkley, AU., Freeman, J., McDermott, H., & Munir, F. (2017). What are the facilitators and obstacles to participation in a workplace team sport? A qualitative study. AIMS Public Health. 4(1), 94-126.
  • Brinkley, AU., McDermott, H., & Munir, F. (2017). What benefits does team sport hold for the workplace? A systematic review. Journal of Sports Sciences. 35(2), 136-148.
  • Brinkley, A.,U McDermott, H., Grenfell-Essam, R., & Munir, F. (2017). It’s time to start changing the game: A 12-week workplace team sport programme using a non-randomised intervention study. Sports Medicine Open. 23(1).
  • Brinkley, AU., McDermott, H., & Munir, F. (2017). A mixed-methods process evaluation of a workplace team sport programme: A RE-AIM analysis. AIMS Public Health, 4(5), 466-489.

Youth Sport Trust Inclusion 2020

Dr Carolynne Mason and Dr Janine Coates

Project description: 

Inclusion 2020 aimed to increase and improve opportunities for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to engage and participate in physical education, physical activity and school sport. Loughborough University were commissioned by the Youth Sport Trust to undertake an independent evaluation of Inclusion 2020 over the 15-month duration. 

Inclusion 2020 was funded by the Department of Education and delivered by the Youth Sport Trust (YST) between 1 January 2019 and 31 March 2020. Fifty-two Lead inclusion Schools across England were appointed to deliver on three core Inclusion 2020 activities: Continued Professional Development (CPD), Active 3030 and Learning & Discovery Days. In addition to the core activities Inclusion 2020 included two innovation projects Inclusive Swimming and My Personal Best (My PB).  

The evaluation assessed the outcomes arising from Inclusion 2020 activities and utilised the evidence to develop recommendations for the future development of the Lead Inclusion School network. The evaluation involved the School Workforce (CPD surveys, Learning and Discovery Days Feedback surveys and reflective diaries/Interviews) and Inclusion Leads (Interviews).  Children and young people participated in the evaluation through engaging in vlogging, focus groups, Feedback Postcards and Active 3030 surveys