Improving the participation of students with special educational needs in mainstream physical education classes: a rights-based perspective

Una O'Connor, Joanne McNabb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are identified as a marginalised group whose educational rights are considerably less fulfilled than their peers. This can be more conspicuous in Physical Education (PE) classes, where they often experience a narrower sphere of participatory options compared to their non-disabled peers. Drawing together literature on children’s rights, inclusion and physical education, this exploratory study uses a purposive sample of post-primary teachers to explore their perceptions and experiences of the participation of students with SEND in PE classes. The findings suggest that whilst teachers broadly recognised educational participation as an entitlement for all students, its fulfilment is still largely aspirational. The pedagogical and practical challenges identified are indicative of the PE class environment but, the desire amongst PE teachers to expand their inclusive knowledge and skills is a positive development for the educational rights and participation of pupils with SEND.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalEducational Studies
Early online date27 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Feb 2020



  • Children’s rights
  • participation
  • physical education
  • special educational needs
  • teachers

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