Page last updated at 04:55 GMT, Thursday, 16 October 2008 05:55 UK

Leap forward for school sports

children playing football
Younger children do the most PE

More sport is being played in England's schools and ministers say this is due to a move away from an anti-competitive sport culture of the 1980s and 1990s.

Nine out of 10 children now do at least two hours of PE and sport a week, according to figures being released.

In 2002, an estimated one quarter of pupils were doing that much sport.

The figures are also expected to show a rise in schools' competitive sport, which ministers hope will form a permanent legacy of the 2012 Olympics.

Statistics from the School Sport Survey for 2007-08 will be released later on 16 October.

They are based on a survey of 21,631 schools and 6.2m pupils.

They will show that the government has met its 2008 target of 85% of pupils taking part in at least two hours of sport every week in school and in after-school clubs and matches.

A total of 90% are now said to do this much sport through their schools, up from 86% last year.


Among primary schools, the figures suggest a rise in participation from 52% in 2004-05 to 96% this year.

Participation is highest among pupils aged from five to 13 (90% do two hours or more a week).

Teenagers in their GCSE years do less sport. Among Year 10s (14- and 15-year-olds), 71% do two hours of school sport and among Year 11s that drops to 66%.

Last year's School Sports Survey put the proportion of pupils taking part in inter-school competitive sport at 40%, a rise of 18% since 2003-04.

PE is compulsory under the national curriculum in England.

School sport was a national embarrassment a decade ago
Ed Balls, Schools Secretary

The government's PE strategy, launched in 2002, aims to boost sport for young people through a variety of schemes, including more training for teachers and "School sport partnership", where 450 partnerships have been set up linking specialist sports colleges with secondary, primary and special schools.

Childrenís Secretary Ed Balls said: "We have made massive progress in the last few years and laid a firm foundation for a permanent 2012 Olympic legacy. Itís a testament to the fantastic, hard work of the Youth Sport Trust, schools and sports clubs.

"Ignore the half-pint full critics who carp nothing has changed. School sport was a national embarrassment a decade ago. Sport had all but withered and died in many schools; thousands of playing fields had been sold off; there was negligible investment; and an ingrained anti-competitive culture.

"School and youth sport has now never been as well funded; there is a permanent infrastructure and support in place; and more children doing PE and sport than ever before. Children donít want to be wrapped in cotton wool - they want to compete at their own level, in the sports they want.

"We now need to raise our game to persuade more children to make the right choices and exercise outside school - children exercising more sport in the holidays and after school so all children can do at least five hours a week."

UK picture

As education is a devolved matter in the UK, policies on school sport vary across the nations.

In Northern Ireland, the assembly government recommends two hours of PE for secondary school pupils.

At primary level, last year a new sports programme was launched for primary schools where coaches from the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Irish Football Association go into schools to work with children aged four to eight.

The Scottish Government also expects pupils to have two hours of sport at school.

A spokesman said: "Guidelines under Curriculum for Excellence, Scotland's new approach to learning and teaching, explicitly reflect our expectation that schools work towards providing two hours of good quality PE for each child every week and explore other ways of promoting a wide range of physical activities and sport.

"Furthermore, since 2004, £12m per year has been invested in the Active School programme, which is delivering a range of physical activities in and around the school day, helping increase participation in sport."

In Wales, the Assembly Government is working in partnership with the Sports Council for Wales to improve standards in PE and the range of sports offered.

A spokesman said a key element of this was the establishment of partnerships between clusters of schools to make "best use of facilities and expertise - with a target of two hours curriculum time each week for all pupils".

It was planned that by 2010 all schools would be involved with such partnerships, he said.

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