It comes after an Ofsted report into competitive school sport called on maintained schools and academies to “recognise the wider benefits that sport brings to pupils and their school”.
Ofsted’s investigation set out to explore why so many winning athletes at the London 2012 Olympic Games attended private schools. As part of the work, inspectors visited 35 state schools and 10 independent schools.
The report, Going the Extra Mile, found that competitive sport is successful when staff and schools dedicate “time and energy to organising sport before, during and after school, as well as at weekends”.
It also praised schools that work to identify talented pupils and develop them through extra coaching.
However, it points out that only 13 per cent of state school headteachers surveyed in the report said that they expected all students to take part in competitive sport – and only 40 per cent of young people said they regularly played sport outside school.
Speaking on Friday (June 20), chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said that high school fees and large playing fields are “not a pre-requisite to success”.
He said: “Heads who treat competitive sport with suspicion or as an optional extra are not only denying youngsters the clear dividends that come with encouraging them to compete, they are also cementing the social inequality that holds our nation back.
“Sport can have a transformative effect on schools and pupils. 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.
“More state schools are now encouraging sporting excellence. They use competitive schools sport to energise the entire school culture. They demonstrate that high school fees and large playing fields are not a pre-requisite to success.”
However, school leaders said this week that it was wrong to imply that state schools do not value nor encourage competitive sport.
General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Brian Lightman, said: “Headteachers do value and encourage competitive sport. They know that sport is a great way to build team working and leadership skills, and it’s right that all children should have the opportunity to be involved and encouraged where they have natural ability.
“Increasing opportunities for competitive sport depends on schools having access to facilities and the money to pay coaches and other fees. The reality is that school budgets are being squeezed so if we want to increase take up, other organisations need to do their part in working with schools. Most schools would be very happy to forge links with sports clubs and volunteer coaches.”
The National Union of Teachers attacked the government’s record on school sports. Deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “Ofsted’s comparison between state and independent school sport provision is ridiculous. State schools have neither the same facilities nor time and space in the curriculum for sport as independent schools.
“The coalition government abandoned the target of two hours PE provision a week. Funding for the School Sports Partnership was also withdrawn – it funded work at a local level, linking schools with sports and athletics clubs.
“Ofsted’s report itself points out that providing opportunities to train for and play sports is a lot easier if there are good facilities at hand. It also points out that many of the schools visited did not have such facilities.”