Independent schools do ‘almost triple amount of sports than state counterparts’

The Telegraph, 24/03/15, independent school pupils in the UK are "leading the way" when it comes to encouraging their pupils to take up sports

Independent school pupils in the UK do almost triple the amount of sports compared to students at state schools, new data shows.

Independent schools "are leading the way" in keeping their students healthy and fit, with 5.4 hours a week on average played in over 40 sports, according to the first data released on sport in the UK's leading independent schools.

This compares with less than two hours a week for students in state schools across all key stages despite most schools actively encouraging physical activity as part of the school day, according to a Youth Sport Trust survey carried out last year.

The survey - carried out by carried out by the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) - was released as the obesity crisis in the UK among children becomes a growing concern among schools.

John Claughton, chair of HMC Sports Committee and chief master of Kind Edward's School Birmingham, said: "Schools like ours are very conscious of healthy living and fitness. There is no doubt that one of the things an active sporting life in school [addresses] is the issue of obesity.

Mr Claughton said in some cases some pupils come into a school struggling physical and unable to carry out certain sporting activities, like swimming.

He said independent schools have in recent years "broaden the range of sporting activities and the range of team sports".

The HMC survey also revealed that out 169 schools, a staggering 1,400 pupils had played for their country - around eight per school.

The HMC data also showed very high levels of participation of girls in sports like netball and hockey, but boys still dominated in the traditional sports of cricket, football and rugby.

The data showed 30,000 fixtures a year in the schools surveyed - that's nearly 1,000 a week involving nearly 10,000 pupils, said HMC, which includes Eton, Harrow, Westminster and Wellington.

Sports have become more popular in independents schools following a string of high-profile sporting events - from the Olympics to the World Cup, said Lucy Pearson, headmistress of Cheadle Hulme School, a co-educational private school.

Ms Pearson said there are lessons for state schools to be learned from the independent schools experience on pushing sports.

Like independent schools, "state schools need to continue to build on the pride in the girls when representing their school." Ms Pearson also said state schools should hire more professional coaches for one on one sessions to improve the quality of sports training.

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