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Ofsted: Competitive sport brings academic benefits

Reporting by Nick Morrison

Competitive sport leads to academic benefits and should be built into a school’s ethos, according to chief inspector of schools Sir Michael Wilshaw.

Launching an Ofsted report into school sport this morning, Sir Michael will say depriving children of the chance to compete damages their education. Every child deserves the opportunity to have their sporting passion nurtured, he is due to say.

“Sport can have a transformative effect on schools and pupils,” he will say. “It is clear that a commitment to sporting excellence often reflects a culture of high expectations and achievement in the school as a whole. Schools that win on the field win in the exam hall.”

The report finds that academic achievement and quality of leadership are generally higher in schools where competitive sport is thriving.

But a survey carried out for the report found that only 13 per cent of state school headteachers expected all their pupils to take part in competitive sport, while only half of pupils said they regularly played competitive sport in school.

Ofsted-commissioned research also found that in 19 sports – including football, rugby union, netball, cricket and hockey – 31 per cent of current England internationals went to independent schools, although only 14 per cent of pupils attend fee-paying schools at some point in their education.

Among the report’s recommendations is that schools should expect all pupils to take part in regular competitive sport.

John Steele, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said the report highlighted a “worrying inconsistency” in state schools’ provision of competitive sport.  “This report should be a wake-up call for those schools that do not fully value its place in school life,” he said.

But he warned against judging schools on competitive sport alone. Schools should offer a balanced programme of PE, including the opportunity to take part in different sports, he added. 

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