SPORTS lessons are often unsatisfactory because teachers and coaches have low expectations of their pupils, according to inspectors.
The Office for Standards in Education praised the sports co-ordinators drafted in to organise activities for groups of schools as a positive catalyst for making children more active.
However, inspectors found that pupils still underachieved in more than a quarter of lessons organised through the scheme, part of a pound;459 million government drive to improve school sports.
Ofsted was also concerned that teaching was unsatisfactory in a quarter of the PE lessons and coaching sessions observed and said this was linked to teachers' low expectations.
"In this crucial respect the programme has not yet proved effective," the report said.
More than 765 sports co-ordinators have been hired to arrange sports and PE lessons in clusters of schools since 2000. The Government aims to have 3,200 co-ordinators in place by 2006.
Ofsted praised the co-ordinators' work in broadening the range of activities to include such sports as horse-riding and street hockey.
But it said that lessons and after-school sessions needed to be more closely monitored. Schools were urged to take care assessing the work of specialist coaches.
While coaches usually had specialist knowledge, they were often poorer teachers, said the inspectors. For example, they watched one coach teaching cricket whose " preoccupation with explanation and questioning of pupils'
recall of teaching points left few opportunities for them to practise and refine their bowling," the report said. "The school was unaware of this."
In Sefton, Liverpool, sports co-ordinators have helped organise new sports including scuba-diving, boys' street dancing and girls' cricket.
Penni Allen, the PE teacher who manages the area's four co-ordinators from Chesterfield high school, said the area would easily meet the Government's national target of providing more than 75 per cent of pupils with at least two hours of high-quality PE each week by 2006.
"The real joy has been getting young people from Liverpool interested in a sport that is not football," she said.
"The School Sport Co-ordinator Programme: Evaluation of Phases 1 and 2" is available at www.ofsted.gov.uk