Education secretary Michael Gove has approved the sale of 21 school playing fields in the past two years, Department for Education figures show.
The disclosure triggered concern, but the details reveal that many of the sales have been due to school closures or mergers. More than 200 school playing fields were sold off under the last Labour government, prompting the coalition to pledge to "seek to protect school playing fields".
"We will only agree to the sale of school playing fields if the sports and curriculum needs of schools and their neighbouring schools can continue to be met," a DfE spokesman said. "Sale proceeds must be used to improve sports or education facilities and any new sports facilities must be sustainable for at least 10 years."
The revelations came as the chair of the British Olympic Association, Lord Moynihan, called for the government to increase funding for sport in schools and clubs to ensure that one legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games is increased participation in sport.
NUMBER OF SCHOOL PLAYING FIELDS APPROVED FOR SALE
1999 - 42
2000 - 31
2001 - 21
2002 - 24
2003 - 16
2004 - 13
2005 - 11
2006 - 8
2007 - 19
2008 - 11
2009 - 16
2010 - 1 (January to April 2010)
2010 - 21 (Since May 2010 - when the coalition government came to power)
Reasons for selling playing fields in the most recent 21 cases
14 Schools closed
4 Schools merged
1 School had surplus land: money used for library and changing rooms
1 School leased land to company for installation of all-weather playing surfaces
1 School got approval for land to be leased to athletics club (did not go ahead).