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Sport in Education

Prepared by: Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Reviewed by: Australasian Sport Information Network
Last updated: 13 October 2020
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer

As a reflection of the role that physical activity (PA) and physical literacy play in the development of the whole child, physical education (PE) and/or school-based physical activity (which may include sport) are integral to the curriculum. Sport participation in the school environment can also provide many benefits in terms of physical fitness, health benefits, cognitive development, personal wellbeing, and social integration.

Teachers, parents, sports organisations, and policy makers need to understand how PE and sport in school can effectively contribute to a child’s daily physical activity and overall health, and what strategies and programs can help to maximise both opportunities to participate and the associated benefits.

Key messages

45 minutes

Children who achieve 45minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) perform better in writing, numeracy, and overall proficiency.

Building block

School day physical activity, PE, and sport contribute to the development of the whole child in several ways (e.g. health, physical and emotional wellbeing, cognitive and social development).

Lifelong participation

Sport in the school environment can be a positive influence on lifelong participation in sport and physical activity.

Benefits of sport and physical activity in education

The increasing rates of childhood obesity in Australia and many other countries suggests that many children do not engage in enough physical activity, spend too much time engaged in sedentary activities, and make poor nutritional choices.

The benefits of sport participation in the school environment in terms of physical fitness, health benefits, cognitive development, personal wellbeing, and social integration are extensively reported. Because sport participation in the education sector is so closely linked with PE, school sport ,and other in-school physical activity opportunities, the observed benefits are often attributed to several sources. The contribution of the school environment to a child’s daily physical activity collectively through sport and PE can be substantial.

Sport offers a value-added proposition to every curriculum area; challenging critical thinking skills, decision making, and moral reasoning. The introduction of sport in the school environment, particularly through team activities, provides a social network for children based on common interests outside the classroom. Sport provides another pathway for the fulfilment of personal potential.  Sport also allows young people to take on leadership roles and responsibilities.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topics Sport Participation in Australia, and Physical Activity.

Physical activity through sport and PE

As a reflection of the role that sport and PE plays in the development of the whole child, PE and/or school-based physical activity (which may include sport) is part of the curriculum. PE programs provide instruction and skill-learning opportunities that contribute to the development of physical literacy, which is linked to a greater likelihood of life-long participation, positive attitudes, and behaviours associated with being physically active.

Embedding physical activity, physical literacy, PE, and sport as integral elements of both the curriculum and the broader education environment is important for all levels and ages.

Shared access to facilities

Schools and communities with strong sport programs provide a focal point for community development and partnerships which have added social and economic benefits.

Of particular note is the greater capacity that partnerships provide in maximising the use of shared facilities. Community sporting organisations are under increasing pressure to provide services, but most do not have the capacity to maintain infrastructure. School facilities have been traditionally underutilised in the after school and weekend timeslots. Greater community sport use of school facilities can produce economic efficiencies in terms of facility maintenance, repair and upgrade and allow these to be undertaken in a more timely and effective manner.

Greater community sport use of school facilities can produce economic efficiencies in terms of facility maintenance, repair and upgrade and allow these to be undertaken in a more timely and effective manner. Of interest is the example of England, where Sport England reported that approximately two thirds (62%) of school sports facilities are available for some form of community use, and 39% of sporting facilities overall are on school sites.

Use of school facilities outside of school hours presents opportunities not only for cost benefits, but also social benefits such as a decrease in vandalism and increased employment opportunities in the local community.

Whilst official policies encourage the shared use of school facilities by other community groups, access is largely dependent on the attitude of each individual school. Many school facilities remain unused outside school hours. The Australian Government has made a significant investment in school infrastructure, including sporting facilities, through Building the Education Revolution from 2010 to 2013.  Reciprocal agreements provide an opportunity for community groups to access school facilities and for schools to access community open space and the expertise of community organisations.

A number of reports have highlighted the advantages of shared facility access, both for schools and community sporting organisations. Internationally, the practice of sharing school and community facilities is seen as a cost effective way to encourage greater physical activity.

Developing co-located and integrated community facilities, such as school-based sport and recreation facilities, can maximise the efficiency of access (i.e. travel networks and service provision) and thus enhance opportunities for sports participation by members of the community.


Policies and strategies

Is this information complete?

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