Newitts Logo

What is the role of sport in state and independent schools?

Sport is compulsory for students up to the age of sixteen, but the amount of time devoted to it can differ depending on which type of school you attend.

Enthusiactic about winning this season


The level of sport provided by state and independent schools is a constant subject for debate. It has recently been suggested that state schools do not play enough competitive sport at a high level, whilst sports culture remains strong in independent schools, and it is often considered more likely that future sports competitors will come from this background.

"12 out of 41 British gold medal-winners attended private school"


At the time of the London Olympics 2012, there was growing concern that private schools were producing more than their fair share of gold medal winners. The Good Schools Guide found that 12 out of 41 British gold medal-winners competing at the Olympics and educated in the UK, attended private school.


After the Olympics, Ofsted launched an in-depth assessment of competitive school sport which found that there was not enough strenuous, physical activity in many of England's school PE lessons. "Teachers tend to talk too much in sessions and often lack specialist training" the report concluded.

"Teachers tend to talk too much in sessions and often lack specialist training"


Aside from the Olympics, the ratios greatly vary from one professional sport to another. Cricket is often perceived as more private school orientated, with key rugby players such as Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad both having received a private education. The association between private schools and rugby players is even stronger, with recent figures in the Rugby Union English Premiership revealing 61 per cent of players attended an independent school.


In general, the criticism expressed by Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools In England and head of Ofsted, centres around state schools failing to provide pupils with the necessary opportunities, coaching and encouragement to be able to reach the same high standard as independently educated sportsmen and women.

Little boys playing cricket


Cricket and rowing are two of the sports which support this theory as they require facilities and equipment that are expensive for state schools to acquire and maintain. Futhermore, independent schools have the advantage of being able to afford to employ specialist sports coaches and offer sports scholarships - measures that are simply not realistic to expect from state schools.


Sportsmark is Sport England's accreditation scheme for secondary schools, whereby parents can identify the level of sporting activity within a particular school. Sportsmark is a developmental and auditing tool that rewards and recognises a school for its out-of-hours sports provision and a broad and balanced PE curriculum. There are two levels of award, Sportsmark and Sportsmark Gold, and schools can receive a Distinction at either level.


One of the subjects the scheme focuses on is the opportunities for students to extend their experiences outside the core curriculum, in out-of-school-hours clubs and with other sports organisations. Whether a child is educated at a state or independent school, it is widely recognised that to compete successfully at international level a proper infrastructure and coaching is required.

"The club has replaced the school for competition and coaching"


This idea has given birth to a new professionalism whereby the 'club' has replaced the school for competition and coaching, offering students access to better facilities and coaching that individual state schools simply cannot provide. However, it remains vitally important for both state and independent schools to encourage staff to work closely with local clubs to provide their full support in order to guarantee the future success of British athletes, regardless of their background.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, so feel free to leave a comment below.

comments powered by Disqus