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Dr Rachel Sandford initially joined Loughborough University as an undergraduate student in 1995. She gained a BSc (Hons) degree in Physical Education and Sports Science (1998, First Class) before undertaking doctoral study in the Sociology of Physical Education (1999-2003), focusing on the areas of young people, identity and physical culture. She was then employed as a Research Associate with the Institute of Youth Sport, being appointed a Senior Research Associate in September 2009. Rachel took up a Lecturer post in 2012, before being promoted to Senior Lecturer (2018) and then Reader (2023-present).

Rachel has published widely in refereed journals and books in the areas of sociology, physical education, sport and health and has given invited keynotes to international audiences. She is a member of several international organisations focused on research in physical education and sport pedagogy (e.g., AIESEP, CEREPS, afPE) and was the link convenor for the Research in Sport Pedagogy network of the European Educational Research Association (2018-2023). She is currently an Associate Editor for the journal ‘Sport, Education and Society’. Rachel is centrally involved in the Loughborough University UNESCO Chair on Sport, Physical Activity and Education for Development, where she is the lead contact for the topic area ‘Physical Education, and the Personal/Social Development of Young People’.

Rachel Sandford’s research interests centre on young people’s experiences of, attitudes towards, and participation in physical education, physical activity and youth sport. More specifically, they include a focus on issues relating to: youth voice; positive youth development in/through physical activity and sport; youth identity formation and physical culture and youth disaffection and social exclusion/inclusion. Most recently, her research has centred on the sport/PA experiences of care-experienced youth and the development of trauma-aware pedagogies for physical education.

Her areas of research expertise include: undertaking qualitative research with young people, teachers, adult mentors and programme developers; creative and innovative research approaches with children and young people; case study research with schools/community groups; and writing for diverse audiences (both project reports and academic publications).

Recent research projects include:

  • Association for Physical EducationExamining the Impact of PE as a Core Subject’ (2022-2023)
  • British Academy ‘Examining sport clubs as 'missing spaces' for care-experienced young people in England’ (2021-2024)
  • FIFA ‘Project Guardians: A global evaluation of safeguarding in football’ (2022-2025)
  • Sport England ‘Evaluation of the Multi-Activity Sport Development Programme’ (2016-2018)
  • British Academy ‘Right to be Active: Examining the Sport/Physical Activity Experiences of Looked After Children in England (2019-2019)
  • Associate Editor for the journal Sport, Education and Society (2022 – present)
  • Member of the Association Internationale des Écoles Supérieures d’Éducation Physique/International Association for Physical Education in Higher Education (AIESEP) 
  • Member of the Conseil Européen de la Recherche en Éducation Physique et Sportive/European Council of Research in Physical Education and School Sport (CEREPS)
  • Member of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and committee member of the Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy Special Interest Group (2012 – 2016)
  • Editorial Assistant for the journal Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy (2003-2005)

Selected Invited Presentations

  • Sandford, R. (2022) Mentoring in Research. ECR Keynote session at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Liverpool (September).
  • Sandford, R. (2020) Right to Be Active: The sport/PA experiences of care experienced youth in England. PE and Social Justice Symposium. University of Castilla-La Mancha (Albacete).
  • Sandford, R. (2018)Shaping Values and Attitudes through Physical Education and Sport. Institute of Physical Education and Sport annual conference, University of Malta (February).
  • Sandford, R. (2015) Developing Capacity, Character and Resilience: The potential for positive youth development through physical activity and sport. Presentation at the PE and School Sport conference, Twickenham Stadium, 17th November.
  • Sandford, R. (2015) Prepared to Compete? Examining girls’ perceptions of competition and fun within physical education and school sport. Presentation at the ‘Tackling School Sport Injuries’ conference, Royal Society for Medicine, 14th September.
  • Sandford, R. (2014) The Place of Girls' Games: Exploring Girls’ Views of Competition and Fun in Physical Education and School Sport. Presentation at the National Conference for Directors of Sport in Independent Schools, Oxford, 31st January.

Featured publications

  • Sandford, R., Quarmby, T. & Hooper, O. (2023) Theorising the potential of physical education and school sport to support the educational engagement, transitions, and outcomes of care-experienced young people. British Educational Research Journal. DOI: 10.1002/berj.3907
  • Dyer, J. & Sandford, R. (2023) “Just another outing in a boat”: Findings from the evaluation of the Mixed Ability Sport Development Programme. Disabilities, 3(3), 335-351. DOI: 10.3390/disabilities3030022
  • Quarmby, T., Sandford, R., Hooper, O. & Gray, S. (2023) Co-creating strategies for enacting trauma-aware pedagogies with pre-service physical education teachers. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2023.2194905
  • Gray, S., Sandford, R., Quarmby, T. & Hooper, O. (2023) Exploring pre-service physical education teachers' trauma-related learning experiences in schools. Teaching and Teacher Education, 132. DOI: 10.1016/j.tate.2023.104212
  • Gray, S., Hooper, O., Hardley, S., Sandford, R., Aldous, D., Stirrup, J., Carse, N. & Bryant, A. S. (2022). A health(y) subject? Examining discourses of health in physical education curricula across the UK. British Educational Research Journal, 48, 1161– 1182. DOI: 10.1002/berj.3820
  • Gray, S., Sandford, R., Aldous, D., Carse, N., Stirrup, J., Hardley, S., Hooper, O. & Bryant, A. (2022) A comparative analysis of discourses shaping physical education provision within and across the UK. European Physical Education Review, 28(3), 575–593. DOI: 10.1177/1356336X211059440
  • Camacho-Miñano, J-M., Gray, S., Sandford, R. & MacIsaac, S. (2022) Young women, health and physical activity: tensions between the gendered fields of Physical Education and Instagram. Sport, Education and Society, 27(7), 803-815. DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2021.1932455
  • Sandford, R., Giulianotti, R. & Beckett, A. (2021) Sport, Disability and (Inclusive) Education: Critical insights and understandings from the Playdagogy programme. Sport, Education and Society, 27(2), 150-166. DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2021.1902299
  • Quarmby, T., Sandford, R., Green, R., Hooper, O. & Avery, J. (2022) Developing evidence-informed principles for trauma-aware pedagogies in physical education. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 27(4), 440-454. DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2021.1891214
  • Sandford, R., Quarmby, T., Hooper, O. & Duncombe, R. (2021) Navigating complex social landscapes: Examining care experienced young people’s engagements with sport and physical activity. Sport, Education and Society, 26(1) 15-28. DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2019.1699523