Analysing policy change in Scottish physical education and school sport

Gavin Reid, M. Thorburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Scottish Parliament has produced significant policy divergence from Westminster, as policy-makers create Scottish solutions to Scottish problems (Adams & Schmuecker, 2006; Greer, 2005; Keating, 2005). In England, the focus has been on physical education (PE) and school sport for educational benefits. This contrasts with Scotland's focus on PE and physical activity to counter health problems. Despite Scottish PE experiencing 'the biggest boost for a generation' (Peocock, 2004), a recent Scottish Parliament report (Health & Sport Committee, 2009) described the 'lamentable failure' to deliver two-hour quality PE for every school pupil. This paper explains this situation using the multiple streams framework of policy change (Kingdon, 1984, 1995). The fieldwork involved 24 semi-structured interviews with politicians, civil servants and sports officials within the policy process. The findings indicate that a failure of political will and ministerial turnover, combined with an obstructive civil service and a complacent education establishment, has thwarted fundamental change. A disjointed, under-funded and internal sports lobby, and a central government preference for leaving policy implementation to councils with other priorities, has left officials praising the Scottish model's thinking, but bemoaning its lack of delivery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-315
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events
Issue number3
Early online date19 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


  • multiple streams
  • policy-making
  • Scottish devolution
  • school sport
  • physical activity


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