Social Justice in PE – Some Key Terms and Resources

Social Justice in PE – Some Key Terms and Resources

We believe that every PE teacher should focus on social justice in PE and work towards a more impactful and inclusive PE experience. A key part of this is placing social justice at the centre of the educational experience. Here we have outlined some key terms and Acts that are important to understand and be aware of, in promoting inclusive and more socially just PE and educational environments.

Human Rights

The Human Rights Act 1988 sets out the fundamental rights and freedoms that everyone in the UK is entitled to. It incorporates the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic British law. The following articles in the Act are particularly relevant in promoting social justice within education.

  • Articles 8 respect for your private and family life
  • Article 9 freedom of thought, belief, and religion
  • Article 10 freedom of expression
  • Article 14 protection from discrimination

The Equality Act

The Equality Act 2010 requires all public bodies, including schools to take active steps to eliminate discrimination, reduce in-equality, promote equity and strive for social justice. This includes having due regard for the need to:

  • remove or minimise disadvantage associated with a protected characteristic;
  • meet the needs of individuals who share a protected characteristic;
  • encouraging those who share a protected characteristic to participate especially where participation by that group of people is disproportionately low.

Social Justice

Lynch, Walton-Fisette and Luguetti (2022, P.3) describe social justice as “being able to live in an equitable liberatory society where people have justice, and people are critically conscious to sociocultural issues and act against them”. Therefore, this goes far beyond just providing equal access but actively supporting, addressing, and recognising the needs, motivations, barriers and stereotypes associated with different groups and seek opportunities to challenge our own and others’ unconscious biases.

Equality and Equity

Though often used interchangeably, equality and equity are quite different. Equality simply means everyone is treated the same exact way, regardless of need or any other individual difference. Equity, on the other hand, means everyone is provided with what they need to succeed. Here is a link to a tweet by @ClinPsychDavid that contains a really famous cartoon that helps explain the difference between some key terms and adds an inclusion twist.

Protected Characteristics

Protected characteristics include age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. With regard to supporting trans and non-binary students in PE, you may be interested in this blog and webinar recording.

Equal Access

Equal access ensures that every student has an equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of the educational process, including learning environments/ facilities (schools, classrooms, and labs), resources, curricular and extracurricular programmes.

Widening Participation

All teachers need to champion inclusive practice, especially in supporting pupils with protected characteristics. Widening participation consists of an attempt to increase not only the numbers of young people participating in physical activity and physical education, but also the proportion from under-represented groups (those from lower income families, people with disabilities and some ethnic minorities).

Closing Inequalities

Part of providing a meaningful and inclusive PE offer for all pupils is being proactive and effective in identifying and addressing inequalities. The term closing inequalities is often referred to in relation to actively identifying groups that health, activity or wellbeing outcomes are low in relation to other groups. For example, many fitness clubs have women only classes and some schools have reported huge success offering before school or lunchtime clubs as alternatives to remove the barrier some face with cultural responsibilities for siblings or attending worship after school.

Hidden Curriculum

Lynch, Walton-Fisette and Luguetti (2022, P.2) describe the hidden curriculum as the “untold or unimplied consequences of our teaching/coaching”. Understanding and having an awareness for the intended and potentially unintended outcomes, values and perspectives as a result of our teaching is important to ensure that we enact a socially just curriculum that doesn’t privilege or perpetuate cultural expectations, prejudices or stereotypes. For example, do you offer a different range of curricular and extracurricular activities for boys compared to girls? If so, what informs this beyond tradition and routine? How far do you go to actively challenge prejudice and stereotypes?

Key Questions

  • How well do you know your cohorts, groups and individuals within them? Could student voice ensure you are more informed by student needs, motivations and attitudes?
  • What do you do to help remove barriers and provide access to your PE and School Sport opportunities for those with protected characteristics?
  • How well do you capitalise on recent news items to challenge and debate and challenging thinking through discussions during changing or assemblies?
  • Are you guilty of a “boys will be boys” mentality when it comes to standards? Are you aware of your unconscious biases?
  • Do you have the confidence to ask and interact with a wide range of students to better understand their perspectives, routines and experiences?
  • Do you take account of a range of religious practices such as Ramadan when programming your curriculum at different times in the year?

Signposts to other resources, podcasts, blogs, books and websites on social justice in PE:

If you want to dig deeper, learn and reflect more then we recommend these 6:


Lynch, S., Walton-Fisette, J. L. & Luguetti, C. (2022) Pedagogies of Social Justice in PE and Youth Sport. Routledge, UK.

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