Privatising pre school physical education and sport: Preparing to succeed

Year: 2012

Author: Evans, John, Stirrup, Julie, Duncombe, Rebecca, Sandford, Rachel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Purpose: Parents in the UK, as elsewhere, are increasingly operating within a market in educational services which is no longer simply a matter of choice and competition between 'state' provided educational institutions and the different forms of PE/sport which they provide. The acquisition of corporeal capital is increasingly provided by a combination of transmissions at school, in families and from those 'bought in' from the market. Access to these things simply and fundamentally may depend upon the amount of economic capital available to families to exploit the opportunities available. What's more, all this occurs in a culture where there is now 'a seething and swarming of official discourse around parenting' (Ball, 2009, 9), exacerbated by a plethora of media and public policy messages intended to convey to parents that they and their offspring face imminent danger and 'risk'. Risk, not just of being subjected to lowered educational standards and of 'falling behind' in the educational marketplace but also of falling prey to contemporary maladies, such as obesity, drug abuse, deviant behaviour and so on, unless they take steps to intervene actively to counter them.

Method: The paper calls on data forming part of an on-going but embryonic ethnographic study of 3 Early Year Learning (age 3-5) settings in the UK chosen for their diversity? It offers preliminary analyses of both the political economy of Early Years Learning, asking who can and does access preschool educational resource, and the discursive production of subjectivity and processes of embodiment that occur inside these settings.

Findings: The paper suggests that increasingly, parents seek, but only some are able to secure, 'intensive physical education' opportunities for their children in the Early Years through a mix of state and private institutions. Access to this "learning work" costs time and money and demands particular sorts of energy and social resources borne more realistically by some sections of the population than others. The analyses begin to explore the different forms of EYL available to parents and whether the transctions that occur within them consolodate or help errode class and cultural inequalities.

Conclusion: In an increasingly privatised education system, EYL 'Physical Education' may offer a critical resource for sections of the population (i.e. middle class parents) to maintain their position in the 'privatised' education market, and in wider social and cultural hierarchies.