A new report has been launched by Ofsted with the aim of raising standards of competitive sports in the UK's state schools.
Going the extra mile: excellence in competitive school sport reveals that schools with high sporting standards have high classroom expectations, and both of these factors help create an environment in which pupils excel.
It presents a number of recommendations aimed at ensuring the quality of sports provision is raised in the UK's state schools, with institutions advised to make sport a central part of their culture and to cooperate more with local and professional bodies.
The report comes in response to claims that the UK's independent school sector is over-represented in national sporting teams and events, with athletes from such schools making up a disproportionately large number of sportsmen and women.
Following the success of Team GB in the Olympics and Paralympics, Ofsted was keen to explore the reasons behind this trend and to investigate the link between the quality of competitive sport in these schools and later sporting success.
The Ofsted report found that while fewer than one in ten pupils across the country attend fee-paying schools, people from these institutions make up the majority of players in the English Rugby Union premiership and over a third of the country's top cricketers.Leadership 'important in ensuring sporting success'
Leadership is identified as a key factor in promoting sporting success. In independent schools, leaders recognise the benefits of competitive sport in building schools' culture. They ensure sport helps pupils to succeed in the classroom as well as on the playing field.
Competitive sport tends to thrive in schools where staff dedicate extra time and energy to organising sporting events before, during and after school. While children of all abilities are able to participate in sport, particularly talented pupils are identified and given extra coaching.
The Ofsted report reveals more could be done to ensure state school pupils have the same kind of opportunities available to them. Only 13 per cent of state school headteachers expected all children to take part in sport and only 40 per cent of pupils participate in sports outside school.
Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw said youngsters are being denied the opportunity to succeed by headteachers who view sport with suspicion or treat it as an optional extra. Such attitudes, he claimed, help entrench social inequality.
"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 prerequisite to success," he added.
"If all schools follow the example of the best identified in this report, there is no reason why more pupils from state funded schools can't be batting for England at the Ashes or scoring a winning try in the next Six Nations."Make sport 'a central part of school life'
The report recommends that schools make a distinction between physical education on the one hand and sports coaching on the other.
They should make competitive sport a central part of school life, involving parents and governors and ensuring sport is celebrated and success rewarded.
Pupils of all abilities should be encouraged to participate and the most able encouraged to realise their potential, while expert coaches could be brought in to help those in teaching jobs coach the best students as well as school teams.
In addition, links need to be forged between schools and local and professional sports clubs to encourage more students to take part in sporting activities in their spare time.
Sports associations should be more proactive in offering support for school pupils, helping institutions forge links with sports clubs so youngsters are able to take part during the school day and outside regular school hours.
The report also recommends that the government ensure more pupils from state schools reach the top levels in competitive sports as part of a national strategy. It should monitor the strategy and evaluate its progress in the run-up to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
In preparing the report, Ofsted visited 35 state schools and ten independent schools, recording the views of over 500 headteachers and 1,000 pupils aged between 11 and 18.