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Phil Tusler, publishing editor of School Sport Magazine




We are living in unprecedented times so it was inevitable that sport would become one of the casualties of the coronavirus.


While sport in general in the UK and around the world gradually started to shut down, it took until mid March for schools and national governing bodies to become affected by the gradual shutdown.


For days, teachers worked wonders to keep fixtures going while NGBs and school associations battled hard to run county, regional and national competitions. For that they deserve enormous credit.


Eventually the wave of bad news meant schools and organisers had no real option but to announce similar shutdowns. For how long nobody quite knows.


When lives are at stake and people’s health is all important, it is no wonder that dramatic measures should and would be taken in the interests of the wider population.


The dichotomy of course is that PE and sport is at the very heart of health and happiness. It benefits both the body and the mind. It is what it was invented and developed for.


To go without it is to take away some of the greatest benefits that any activity can provide. Let us hope that whatever we go through, it is for the least time possible. For everyone’s greater good.


At the time of writing, we don’t know what is going to happen to the summer sport programme. But some silver lining among the doom and gloom is the Spring term wasn’t all wiped out by the virus. For at least two months, it was pretty much business as usual. The result was a host of events and competitions at many levels that provided pupils with memories that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.


Schools football and rugby competitions reached many later stages until Covid-19 proved too formidable an opposition. Other huge events in sports such as netball, table tennis and lacrosse were able to complete their national finals. We report on all of them inside our latest edition out this week.


We also have a special feature on the challenges that schools located in the outskirts of the country have in provided a competitive sports programme.


We examine exactly what the primary PE premium has gone for thousands of junior schools around the country and explore the secrets of one secondary school’s athletics success.


In these difficult times, let’s also spare a thought for the fantastic sports companies that provide the equipment and services for our sports departments up and down the country.


Many, including some of the wonderful businesses that we are pleased to partner with in the magazine and on our website, are dependent on your support for their future well-being. We know you are still ordering sports goods and services with an eye on the future. Please continue to back them going forward. And, more importantly, stay safe.




Two recent emails about the nature of winning and losing got us thinking just how emotive an issue something seemingly straightforward actually is.


One espoused the importance of it at their school, both for boys and girls, and how much their pupils look forward to matches above anything else in their sporting curriculum.


Another wasn’t so sure – instead emphasising the simple joy their pupils received from playing a game, regardless of the result.


While not the be all and end all, I don’t think anyone would disagree that success and failure is at the very core of school sport as it is in life.


Winning may not mean anything. In fact teams and individuals can learn as much, if not more, from losing. But winning doesn’t half make you feel good. And in an ever-stressful world that has got to mean something surely.


Of course, competitive sport is (and should always be) just a part of sporting life in schools. Playing the game, learning, developing and having fun is equally as important.


But if competitive sport was such a dirty word then why do 90% of games played revolve around a winning or losing scenario?


If there was anything inherently wrong in that wouldn’t schools and sports teachers be the first to condemn it, reduce its impact or get rid of it altogether?


Which brings us to the second of our sports schools of the year list featured in our centre pages inside.


The independent schools list follows on from our top 100 sporting state schools of the year featured in our last edition and, more comprehensively on our website


As always, it is received and warmly welcomed by most people (especially by those schools in the top 100) and criticised by a few (usually by those who haven’t made it).


In essence of course it is just a mirror of those schools that have won the most competitions or reached more finals over the course of a year.


It is not perfect, simply one measure of sporting success, endeavour and achievement. But where’s the harm in celebrating it?


As a new year dawns, we are launching five new national competitions in 2020 with details inside and look back on the first three sporting finals of the school year in swimming, cross country and tennis.


Former England international Lee Dickson talks about his sporting week as he starts a new career as head of rugby at Barnard Castle School in Durham.


Meanwhile state schools talk about their successful rugby programmes and how they are trying to close the schools’ rugby divide.


We ask if handball is Britain’s fastest-growing school sport while three schools reveal the secrets of their netball success.


Football is also in the spotlight with a special feature on the growth of girls’ football in schools and a progress report on the ESFA’s competitions to date. Have a great Spring term.




A conversation with one inner city PE department recently would have been particularly shocking had it not been a story that could have been told ten years ago.


Their annual budget – which includes equipment and sports travel – is but a meagre £1,200, barely enough to cover one Saturday’s sports fixtures at many schools.


Is it scandalous? Absolutely. Is it something they should have to put up with? Absolutely not. The big question is why it is still happening as we approach 2020 and what can be done to improve things?


Of course inequality is something that has existed since time began. We are never going to eradicate it. But narrowing that gap should be integral to the thinking of every Government and every sports body.


Which in a round-about way brings us to the question of our annual top 100 sports schools of the year which we reveal in both the current and following editions.


Some schools complain that they have no chance of making the top 100, let alone the top 30, because of the very same inequality that exists between schools. But that really shouldn’t be the case.


The fact is that success in many sports really don’t require huge sums of money, amazing facilities or outside coaching


Achievement in sports such as football, netball, athletics, basketball, handball and cross country, among others, rely much more on talent combined with effort, good coaching and great programmes which do exist all over the country.


They require commitment by both pupils and teachers as schools in our regular and hugely-popular series – the secrets of our sporting success – reveal in the latest edition of School Sport Magazine out this week.


Elsewhere sports technology seems all the rage as we approach 2020 as one company and one school explains.


A primary aim is obviously to improve performance. But it’s actually changing sports behaviour. It’s a subject we are going to be visiting again in a future edition.


As we approach a new decade, one of the country’s most traditional school sports – rounders – seems particularly under fire on many fronts.


Yet another bad news story for the sport is countered by the governing body’s new CEO Natalie Justice-Dearn in My Sporting View.


Meanwhile Neil Rollings advocates that schools should do more to provide sports for

all not just the elite.


Taekwondo star Bianca Walkden reveals her sporting schooldays and Martin McKee, head of PE at St Mary’s Catholic High School in Chesterfield, recalls memories of one of their star pupils – England football’s Harry Maguire.




At the start of another school year, should we be surprised by latest research that shows, once again, that the type of school you attend has a direct link to achievement in certain sports?


Access to the best coaching, facilities and team-mates will enhance the chances of any young person hoping to progress in his or her chosen sport.


The more complicated the game and the greater the specialist facilities and coaching needed, the more disparity there appears to be, according to a new report we highlight inside the latest edition.


I will leave to it you to discover what sports and what schools have the greatest influence on achievement or otherwise.


I will also leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions, save to simply ask whether it has ever been thus, does action need to be done to rectify the situation or is it just a fact of life that we all have to live with.


One sport that has been dominated for many years by the independent sector is hockey. That one school is fighting back against the great hockey divide is celebrated in a special feature inside. Long may it continue.


The summer term, much maligned in terms of sports provision as we examined in our June edition, thankfully served up a fantastic feast of sporting entertainment.


It doesn’t destroy the argument that summer sport is in terminal decline or at least in urgent need of some shock therapy. But at least it brings some solace to the doom-mongers and hope to the more optimistic among us.


Athletics, cricket, tennis, basketball, handball, rugby league, golf and rounders all reached exciting conclusions to long campaigns. We highlight the best moments from all of them in our summer sport special inside.


Not before time, girls and women’s sport have been enjoying a resurgent time recently with netball, football and cricket taking centrestage in TV coverage and in the sports pages.


Eboni Usoro-Brown was a key member of England’s to run the World Cup netball semi-finals. Inside she talks exclusively to us about the sporting schooldays that set her on the road to success.


Our columnists Neil Rollings and Gordon MacLelland pose interesting questions to sports teachers and parents respectively. Just how strong do you want your opposition to be and is winning in the long-term (not the short-term) the best way forward?


Sophie Windle gives an insight to the challenges she faces as the new director of sport at an all-girls school while we also discover how that most American of sports is crossing to Atlantic to British school.


As September dawns, who knows what joys and challenges another school year will bring. Let’s all enjoy the journey.




Through the spectrum of rose-tinted glasses, it is easy to remember summer terms full of long, lazy days spent on the sports field.


Nowadays every school year group – not just those involved in the most important testing – seems to be locked away for weeks on end in exam halls.


Even when they have days off, a combination of parent power, pressure from teachers and the wider school or even internal concerns prevent pupils from enjoying sporting opportunities to the full.


Of course, their academic futures are of paramount importance but surely not at the expense of the team or their own personal physical development.


Our centrespread feature questions the very future of the summer term sport programme – whether it is yielding under the weight of ever-more exams and other pressures or if there is light at the end of the tunnel.


Evidence of course suggests that taking part in sport during the busy summer term is great for both the body and the mind. Far from detracting from vital revision time, the benefits far outweigh any negative connotations. Let’s hope the latter train of thought prevails.


Outside the school arena, women’s sport continues to flourish with both the football and netball World Cups taking place over the coming weeks.


Hopefully this will provide further inspiration for female pupils all over the country at a time when more and more girls are turning against physical activity during their teenage years.


Our recent series of articles championing girls’ sport continues with England football star Izzy Christiansen talking very articulately about how her sporting schooldays set her on the road to success.


We focus again on the growth of girls’ cricket at a time when the boys’ game is coming increasing pressure.


With Wimbledon just around the corner, we look at how a Devon state school has transformed its tennis programme to not only compete with but beat the country’s best.


Gordon MacLelland kicks off a series of articles that examines the role of parents in school sport – asking the pertinent question ‘Whose game is it anyhow?’


Some of the keys to coaching mental toughness on the sports field are scrutinised by Paul Westgate while the ebullient David English, Bunbury founder and vice president of the English Schools’ Cricket Association urges just let the children play.


We couldn’t agree more. Have a great end to the summer term.




It’s rare, even for readers as passionate, motivated and articulate as ours, to become as animated about an issue as we encountered followed our last edition.


Our feature ‘Are sports scholarships a force for good or nothing more than player poaching?’ provoked a huge response from both sides of the fence.


The topic of course is not one of black and white but one that his incredibly nuanced with credible arguments on both sides.


If schools are simply using sports scholarships to give opportunities to talented athletes from poorer backgrounds to enhance their lot then they are to be congratulated.


If they are using their financial clout to offer sports scholarships to boys and girls solely as a means of enhancing their status on the sports field then they should be criticized.


Some schools are, without doubt, using it for the latter motive. We know because they have told us, albeit off the record.


Others have purely honourable reasons for doing so while, in reality, the increase in performances is a natural bi-product of the initial action…a win-win situation if you like.


Chris Morgan, director of sport at Tonbridge School, stands up for sports scholarships in our latest edition and his argument is undoubtedly compelling – although it will split opinion.


This term sees the start of the cricket season and, to reflect the growing role that female cricket is playing in the curriculum, we kick off the sixth season of the national schools’ U15 girls’ T20 cup while England star Tammy Beaumont shares her sporting schooldays with us.


In a further celebration of girls’ cricket, we look at the work of the charity Chance to Shine while our pupil diary features a wonderfully talented teenager Lucia Kendall, who just happens to be in the England age-group squads for both cricket and football.


She also happened to score 192 in 20 overs in our girls’ competition last year. What on earth will she do this season.


One issue we haven’t had to debate previously over the last 15 years is that of transgender. But a letter from one of our readers and a sporting viewpoint from a lecturer about the barriers affecting transgender students in PE does no more than reflect the issue being discussed by wider society in 2019.


Last term proved a bumper time for sports competitions with the likes of netball, rugby, hockey, football, lacrosse, squash and table tennis all reaching exciting climaxes. These and a special feature on the subject hopefully explode the myth that competitive sport in schools is on the wane.


Coopers Coborn School reveal the secrets of their national cross country success while Paul Westgate’s coaching matters insists teachers shouldn’t coach the sport but coach the person.


Have a great summer term.




It has long been one of our biggest bugbears that primary schools have, for too long, been at the back of the queue when it comes to sports provision.


Why is it that these schools – around 17,000 of them at the last count – are very much the paupers of PE delivery?


Incredibly, at the start of 2019, there are still relatively few of them that have qualified PE teachers working with them when, arguably, this is the time when young children need them most.


Instilling the right skills and techniques at a young stage surely is key to establishing a livelong love of sport let alone providing pupils with the right knowledge to live a healthier lifestyle.


So why do you primary school teachers still only have around six hours of PE provided within their teacher training. It’s nothing short of a disgrace.


The Primary PE Premium funding has of course gone some way to alleviating this misnomour as the Youth Sport Trust point out with the pages of our 73rd edition.


But more help and emphasis is needed if we are to turn back the tide of child obesity and set our young pupils onto the right sporting path in life.


Having one trained PE teacher is every primary school in the country shouldn’t just be an aim for 2019. It should be an ambition. Anything less is letting the next generation down.


I wonder how many of the pupils that helped their schools reach the top sporting independent list of 2018 – the second of our annual lists – were fortunate enough to receive excellent sports provision at primary. I bet it was a large percentage.


The list always provides us with one of our largest response of the year – whether schools have made the list or not.


Like school league tables, they are far from perfect science. They are merely one indication of sporting excellence, in our case showing those schools that take sports competition particularly seriously.


Making the top 30 of either list means you are in the top one to three per cent in the country while reaching the top 100 means you are in the top three to ten per cent.


Does making the top 100 mean you are doing everything right? Absolutely not. Does not making the list mean you are somehow failing? Absolutely not. It does make for great debate however.




Hard to believe as we approach the end of 2018 but the very service that is key to sports fixtures everywhere is still breaking down.


Logistics – the basic means of getting teams to and from games – is such an integral part of the sporting process that we tend to take it for granted.


Yet an antiquated department of transport ruling means only a minority of sports teachers are qualified to drive minibuses to and from fixtures.


This means more and more games are being cancelled and fewer and fewer fixtures are being organised in the first place. It is a disgrace.


A simple change in the law would go a long way to solving the problem overnight yet politicians and bureaucrats are either too busy or too lazy to do anything about it.


Not surprisingly the problem is driving teachers mad – incredibly ten years after we first highlighted the issue – as we illustrate in our special feature on pages 18-21.


In fact it’s hard to remember when we have had such a response to a subject, such is the anger and concern out there.


Some people say that smaller, lighter minibuses are the answer. And yes they do go some way to alleviating the subject. But they don’t solve the matter of rugby teams or larger squads travelling to and from matches.


Can we ask everyone out there to get in touch with their local MP to highlight the issue and let us know how they get on. At least it will take their minds off Brexit for a while at least.


Our last edition of 2018 is as eclectic as ever with sports ranging from football and equestrian to netball and water polo.


We reveal the best sporting state schools of the year in our exclusive list and ask whether crounders is the answer to the girls’ cricket v rounders debate. Yes we really do.


Mark Spivey looks at the pros and cons of early specialisation and Paul Westgate asks coaches if it is time to think differently. Have a great final few weeks of the year.




Not being one for new year resolutions, the next best thing is a wish list to celebrate the new school year and School Sport Magazine’s 15th anniversary.


But where do you start when there is so much to rejoice yet so much more that could be done in this shining light that is sports education?


Let’s say a big thank you those school sport associations and hundreds of volunteer teachers and ex-teachers who provide competitive sports for the next generation without wanting anything in return.


Let’s also celebrate those sports teachers who go the extra mile to provide sporting opportunities for their young charges.


And let’s also revel in the rise in girls’ sport. It’s been a fantastic year for female sport generally which must impact on the grass roots game everywhere. Great role models bring long term gains down the line.


On the can-do-better list, why are primary schools treated as second class citizens when it comes to physical education? Everyone of them should have a fully-trained PE coordinator not just a select few.


Is it any wonder the physical health of our youngest generation is deteriorating when we have minimum bench marks for maths and English but not for PE? It’s a national disgrace.


Let’s overhaul the minibus regulations to make it easier for younger teachers to drive school teams to and from matches and tournaments to get more schools playing competitive features.


And isn’t it about time the School Games introduced school teams into their national finals rather than talented individuals? It would breath more life and focus into the event.


Last but not least can England Hockey stop charging school teams extortionate sums for reaching the final stages of their national competitions and can the RFU reverse their ridiculous decision to ban knockout tournaments for years 8 (U13) and below. We can but hope.


Back to the start of the new school year and our 71st edition out this week, we have a host of fascinating news and feature articles to whet your appetite.


We look back on a fantastic summer term of sport and feature 35 national finals in sports including cricket, athletics and rounders to tennis, golf, rugby league and equestrian.


We examine why sports science really matters and the benefits of performance monitoring and analysis not to mention our popular columns on strength and condition and sports coaching.


We look at two state schools who have overachieved on the schools’ netball stage and study the secrets of their success.


We turn the spotlight on one primary school who went from the worst performing school in sport to the best and scrutinize how they did it.


There’s a chance to win £500 worth of sports balls while a former sports teacher dares to suggest that winning isn’t everything.


In the meantime have a great Autumn term and let’s hope this great weather continues – at least for a month or two.




Who would have thought it – getting children running regularly improves their health and fitness?


It’s not exactly rocket science is it? But this most basic of exercise forms has been largely disregarded at primary school level in recent years in the pursuit of endlessly exercising the brain – until now.


Don’t get me wrong. Learning how to add things up and put words in the right order are extremely important. But should they really be taught at the expense of physical education.


Thankfully an initiative that started in Scotland is rapidly gaining in popularity throughout the UK. It is remarkable not least for its simplicity.


The daily mile, as it has been tagged, doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete. There doesn’t need to be any competitive element to it so it suits children of all shapes and sizes.


More importantly, most girls and boys of primary school age don’t have the inhibitions and hang-ups regarding physical activity that manifest themselves as they get older. In other words they run for fun.


Attention levels in class improve, not to mention educational attainment and overall fitness levels. It’s a win-win initiative that we will be examining more in future editions.


It’s safe to say also that girls’ sport has lagged behind in the public psyche is recent years with media coverage of female games sadly lacking.


Now though, achievements that started with the 2016 Olympic women’s hockey gold medallists have spawned a series of other successes including our women’s football, cricket and netball teams.


The legacy effect these role models will have on the next generation of female athletes cannot be underestimated. It’s is something we are proud to highlight in our 70th edition out this week.


We examine the unique qualities that girls bring to both competitive sport and sport in general and look at the secrets of success of, arguably, the country’s most successful sporting girls’ school of recent years.


We look at how two girls’ sports – rounders and cricket – both with different histories and traditions are competing for dominance on the summer games curriculum.


We review the final stages of a host of sporting encounters, from badminton and basketball to football and hockey. And we look at how state school cricket is battling back against all odds.


Have a great summer – and don’t forget to check out the great sports clothing, sports tours, sports equipment and sports services provided by our fantastic advertisers. We wouldn’t be here without them.




Mad March certainly lived up to its name this year didn’t it?


Traditionally, it’s the month that hosts more national schools’ finals than any other as dozens of competitions reach their zenith after a long winter of epic struggle.


But a combination of the Beast from the East and further snowstorms meant organisers were mostly left scratching their heads in frustration.


Events had to be postponed, cancelled and amended as bad weather played havoc with traditional finals. Thank goodness table tennis is played indoors.


Rugby players are hardy souls but even they had to endure a few anxious hours as officials at the national schools’ sevens had to clear dozens of pitches in order for the competition to start on time.


As always it was a fantastic display of high-quality rugby across several age-groups although one glaring anomaly did stand out.


Once again the youngest age group on show – the U13s – turned out in force to compete across a series of groups.


Unlike the other events however, that’s where the event ended with group winners having no chance to compete for national honours thanks to the RFU’s insistence that U13s (and below) must not compete in knock-out competitions.


It’s OK if you are 14 apparently but not if you are 13. Just not appropriate for children that age to experience the high of winning or the lessons of losing.


What a sad state of affairs for those players involved, especially as it was considered appropriate for many years by the powers that be.


Luckily it is not a view shared by other more-enlightened national governing bodies such as football, cricket, hockey, athletics, gymnastics, rounders, table tennis etc etc. The list goes on.


Let’s hope the RFU see sense in the future and review this ludicrous ruling. I’m not holding my breath though.


All of these fantastic winter competitions are highlighted in depth in our action-packed April/May editions with a series of special reports.


We also look at the primary school that has no less than six PE teachers and ask if the PE and sport premium is making sufficient impact in primary schools?


We check out the Yorkshire organisation that has been meeting the needs of sport in schools for 130 years and highlight how to deal with disappointed sporting pipils.


England cricket star Anya Shrubsole’s reveals the sporting schooldays that set her on the road to success as girls’ cricket continues to grow.


There’s a chance to win a fantastic sportskit for your school and look at how schools’ biathlon might just unearth the next Brownlee brother


Have a great summer term (the weather will get better…honestly).






Reaching the latter stages of any national sports competition provides a lifetime highlight for any school and the pupils that form part of that team.


So the last thing you would expect is for an invoice to land on your desk asking for payment for reaching the regional and national finals.


But that’s exactly what dozens of schools have received this year from England Hockey who continue with their immoral and unprecedented policy of charging schools for succeeding in their U13, U14, U16 and U18 boys’ and girls’ cups.


Every school expects to pay a small entry fee to help cover the administration costs of competing in national competitions.


What they don’t expect is to be charged up to £500 for reaching the regional and national finals of England Hockey’s indoor and outdoor tournaments.


This of course is on top of the travel and accommodation costs that form part of any successful run.


Mention it to other national governing bodies or school sport associations and they look at you in astonishment. The thought of charging on this scale just for being successful has never crossed their minds.


Not surprisingly, schools are up in arms about this continued policy and England Hockey seem unable to comprehend they are doing anything wrong.


However as long as the big independent schools with big budgets continue to enter – and as long as there is no viable national alternative – England Hockey will continue to accept their money.


The competitions will be won by the same schools and fewer and fewer state schools will grace the tournaments with their presence.


The only answer is for all schools to boycott the competitions until England Hockey changes its mind. Here’s hoping.


And here’s hoping also that this negative story is the only blot in a landscape of brilliant success on the sports field that we reflect in the pages of our 65th edition.


We look back on wonderful finals day action in national football, badminton and basketball competitions.


We celebrate achievement on the cricket fields around the country and ask if cricket in state schools is in crisis or credit.


We also examine if competition is becoming a dirty word, question if we are failing our pupils with primary PE provision and look at how the Premier League is kicking football into the classroom. Have a great summer.




To lose or not to lose – that is the question (with apologies to the learned Bard).


Whether tis nobler to lose in the semi-finals or quarter finals of a national cup or win one of those strange competitions for sides who are knocked out in an earlier round is a question for everyone’s conscience and personal taste.


But it appears that the august body that is the Rugby Football Union has taken this theme to a whole new level.


This season we once again have a so-called Champions Trophy which appears to exist on a higher plane than that of the prestigious and long-established NatWest U15 and U18 Schools Cups (formerly known as the Daily Mail Schools Cups).


We also have the equally age-old U15 and U18 Vase for those schools that lose in an early round. The reward for the best losing sides here is a final…at Twickenham no less.


Below that – for schools that lose in other rounds – a strange phenomenon known as the Plate and Bowl competitions seems to have crept into the calendar.


Providing extra competitions for schools should of course be welcomed and encouraged. And we are fortunate to be living in an age where there have never been more of them.


But does winning one of these Bowl, Plate or Vase competitions actually mean very much. Of course successful sides will claim it does.


As will the RFU who seems to adopted the stance that losing is a now dirty word that cannot be allowed – but instead rewarded with entry into yet another meaningless competition.


Think of those football teams that drop into the Europa League, having performed badly in the Champions League and you get my drift.


This year’s School Sport Magazine National Schools U13 Rugby Cup provided another high-class age-group option for schools with increased entries for the fourth season running.


Sadly it will be the last, despite 95% of schools ignoring the RFU’s new regulation banning straight knockout tournaments for U13 age groups and below.


We cannot unfortunately continue with a competition – as popular as it is – that certain schools feel pressurised or uncomfortable about not entering.


In the meantime – and in the spirit of competition for all - may I simply suggest that the RFU devote more of its extensive resources to providing meaningful national competitions to other age groups that currently miss out (U14s and U16s for example or even, heaven forbid, U12s and U13s) – rather than ever more meaningless tournaments for losing teams.


Thankfully the RFU’s route is not one that have been adopted by other governing bodies. I wonder why?


As we welcome the start of the summer term, our latest edition looks back on an exciting few weeks of action and the finals of dozens of different competitions from netball, hockey and rugby to biathlon, lacrosse and table tennis.


It is complemented by another smorgasbord of news, features and articles. I hope you enjoy it.




The dawning of a new year is always a time for optimism and hope and never more so than following one of the greatest British sporting years on record.


2016 will surely go down as one of the most inspiring twelve months in history. You just had to look at the roll call at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year to see that.


Oh how, as a young boy growing up in the Seventies, I could have wished of being inspired by the likes of individuals such as Andy Murray, Danny Willett, Mo Farrah and Jo Konta or teams like the England women’s hockey side or Leicester City.


Yes we had the odd Olympic champion but not the multitude we are blessed with currently. Golf and tennis champions were conspicuous by their absence and England football teams didn’t even reach the World Cup finals (let alone fail miserably when they got there).


Inspiration and sporting heroes are the key to the next generation becoming motivated to emulate their idols. Well today’s schoolchildren have a huge number of men and women to look up to.


Our first edition of 2017 also aims to continue to reflect, examine and inspire so following our top 100 sporting state schools of 2016, we reveal the best of the best from the independent sector.


One of Britain’s Rio heroes – swimmer Adam Peaty – talks about the sporting schooldays that set him on the road to success.


Elsewhere Andrew Foster examines how mind over matter can be your twelfth man on the sports field and John Deadman asks if the school you go to determines your chance of Olympic success?


Paul Westgate offers seven coaching commandments for teaching young sporting pupils while Sarah Juggins looks at how the rise in girls’ football has transformed the sporting curriculum.


Continuing the soccer theme, we highlight Thomas Telford School, who are widely regarded as the Barcelona of British schools’ football. But what exactly are the secrets to their success?


We highlight the national schools’ cross country, swimming and tennis finals and look at the progress of national netball and rugby union competitions.


With the school ski season in full flow, we give you the lowdown on how to get the best out of your school ski trip, from the best companies to approach to the top tips on getting the most out of your tour.


There’s a look at how your school can take part in one of Europe’s biggest youth sporting festivals – the United World Games – and a focus on how a sport with a difference is helping pupils with their maths.


Everything really to get you inspired at the start of 2017. Have a great term.




I have a sneaking confession to make but please don’t hold it against me.


When Barnsley’s Horizon Community College proclaimed themselves the best girls’ cricket school in the country by winning the third School Sport Magazine National U15 Cup earlier this term, I let out a silent cheer.


Their against-the-odds victory (see page 11 for details) against some of the best independent schools around proved that talent and hard work is just as alive and well in the state sector as anywhere else.


It proves that, while it undoubtedly helps, you don’t have to have to have the best equipment or facilities to succeed – and thank goodness for that.


It proves that with an enthusiastic and talented group of individuals, a dedicated coach and supportive senior staff, anything is possible. Every school out there should take note.


Such talent and dedication is definitely out there in abundance if the results of our eagerly-awaited fourth annual sporting state school list of 2016 – published in the latest edition - is anything to go by.


And while there are plenty of familiar names in our top 30 and top 100 lists, there are many new names, proving that achievement is open to all and not just a few.


One of the most common questions we get asked by schools after publication is ‘We’ve had a fantastic sporting year this year. Why haven’t we made it into the list?’


Well the answer is that schools generally have to reach the final stages of three or four national competitions to make the top 100 – a list that comprises just 3% of the country’s 3,000 state schools.


So just because you haven’t made it this year doesn’t mean you aren’t doing great job, it just means others have done better over the last twelve months. It sums up competitive sport in a nutshell in fact.


The country’s 1,000 or so independent schools mustn’t feel left out either. Your list will be revealed in our January edition while, for the first time, we will also be comparing both sectors who, after all, have all been competing in the same 120+ competitions.


As the Autumn term progresses apace, our November edition is packed with a series of exciting news and features as well as a round-up of the latest national schools’ competitions – and we make no apology for shouting about the success of sport in the state sector generally.


Discover how state school medalists increase Olympic gap over independent rivals, how to combine study with the best sports coaching in the state sector and how schools are defying the RFU’s ridiculous ban on simple knockout tournaments.


Find out if the quest for academic success is marginalizing sport and PE, how pupils competed at the Olympics while still at school and why sports tours are so much more than just a jolly.


Read about the secrets of London’s St Bonaventure’s School’s basketball success, a PE teacher’s view on Britain’s obesity bombshell and Olympic hockey star Maddie Hinch’s sporting schooldays. Moreover have a fantastic sporting second half of the term.




It would be very tempting to spend the whole of this welcome to the new sporting school year ranting about one of the RFU’s more ludicrous decrees.


However I’d like to start the term in a positive frame of mind – so I would simply refer to our lead story on page five and ask you to make your own minds up.


It’s a shame actually as quite some time ago the School Sport Magazine team decided that it would be a great idea to profile rugby as a feature sport in our September/October edition.


What better way to begin the new school year than celebrating a sport that epitomizes the very best ethos of fair play, teamwork, discipline, enjoyment, respect and sportsmanship.


With that in mind, we interviewed new England rugby star Jack Clifford about his sporting schooldays and England women’s international Izzy Noel-Smith about how she combines teaching with playing for her country.


We also travelled to Wales to look at the great work being done in Welsh state schools to develop the rugby union across all age groups. It looks like English schools could learn a thing or two.


Fortunately we also have a wealth of other fascinating news, feature and opinion articles to whet your appetite for the sporting year ahead.


It includes a look at how the Grammar School at Leeds’ innovative netball programme brought them two national titles last season.


Acclaimed writer Simon Barnes reflects on a lifetime in pursuit of sporting excellence and looks back on the schooldays that inspired his love of sport.


There a round-up of the best of the summer action from a range of sports including cricket, athletics, rounders, golf and tennis.


Meanwhile Mark Spivey and Paul Westgate continue their examine at the latest trends in strength and conditioning and coaching for schools.


There’s a life in the week of Hattie Dukes, head of PE at Ricards Lodge High School for Girls in London and Natalie Maclean, director of sport at Kingston Grammar School in Surrey, discusses her sporting life.


And in response to numerous requests, and with the 100 sporting schools of 2016 to be revealed in two months’ time, we look at what competitions qualify for the popular state and independent school lists.


As you embark on another sporting year, we wish you luck and good fortune whether you are teachers, coaches, teams or individual pupils.


And remember that talent combined with dedication and hard work will bring reward. Just look at our amazing Olympic medallists.




Spoilt for choice is an often-used phrase to sum up a cornucopia of delights spread out before us.


It’s also how we look forward to the second half of the summer term with an abundance of sporting pleasures both in and out of school.


While school playing fields host a profusion of exciting cricket, athletics, tennis and rounders clashes (hopefully in beautiful, balmy weather), the summer also summons forth a plethora of international sport to look forward to including the Rio Olympics, Euro 2016, Test series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the Open golf and Wimbledon.


And as we marvel at the skill and mental toughness of the world’s tennis stars, we take a look inside at the latest plans from the LTA to target schools to try to unearth the next Andy Murray.


It’s not an easy job, not least because of the time and money involved in developing the next superstar on the block.


But schools are often better equipped than other bodies to at least identify and nurture tennis talent and the LTA is recognising that fact.


Many have tennis courts on site (although funding for more from Wimbledon’s riches would be welcome) while others have access to tennis clubs nearby and can be helped to set up school-club links.


Tennis is the perfect summer sport, ideal for developing hand-eye coordination, whatever your standard and any expert eye can pick out that natural pupil from a large group, whether they are four-years-old or 14.


Whether that player will have the mental fortitude to withstand the rigours of years of practice and development is often an unknown quantity. But starting at schools is definitely the way to go.


Having to give up your chosen sport because of injury or illness must be the ultimate kick-in-the-teeth. It’s what happened to England cricketer James Taylor recently.


And in a special tribute to the articulate and talented young man, his old school Shrewsbury recall their special memories of one of their most famous former pupils.


Elsewhere we talk to two sports teachers who have decided that teaching abroad is a fantastic alternative to working in the UK.


We celebrate the conclusion of months of competition in national schools’ football, basketball, badminton and table tennis finals and examine why some schools can’t get enough of competitive sport – and others decide otherwise.


Simon Bird, assistant deputy head at Cranleigh School in Surrey, reveals what it takes to build national champions, no matter what size you are.


And in a new regular feature, Paul Westgate, director of sport at Uppingham School, discusses how and why good coaching really does matter.


There also more, so much more. But you will have to delve inside to find out. Have a great summer term in the meantime.




Oh dear. Just when we should be looking ahead to the delights of summer sport, a perennial problem rears its ugly head again.


Barely does a year seem to go by without someone declaring that rugby in schools is too dangerous and demanding that action be taken to curb this glorious game.


This time it’s a group of doctors who have come to the conclusion that tackling is far too hazardous a pastime for our young pupils to be indulging in.


Now doctors are a worthy bunch of people whose main aim in life is to heal the sick and injured – so when they speak it is usually worth listening to them.


Sometimes however even the best of us are wrong and doctors fall into this category on this occasion for a number of reasons.


Not least, as the RFU, teachers and rugby coaches point out inside our latest edition, the standard of rugby coaching in schools and the quality of safety awareness has never been more pertinent.


Not least also that there are many more sports that have more pro-rata injuries than rugby. Just take equestrian, skiing and gymnastics as three examples.


And not least finally that more than 16,000 people were injured last year tripping over their trousers, falling down stairs while pulling them up or putting on socks and tights.


The point is that life itself is inherently dangerous. Sports and pastimes that enhance life carry a degree of risk. But as long that risk is mitigated and recognised, as long as precautions are put in place and as long as children are not forced to do anything that they or their parents don’t want them to do, then they should be allowed to do it.


Life would be so much duller without it. You just had to be the finals of this year’s national schools U18,U15 and U13 finals – or the hundreds of players revelling at the National Schools Sevens – to see that.


We celebrate the culmination of a season’s worth of achievement inside our 59th edition – as well as a host of other competitions including netball, hockey and tennis.


To celebrate the start of the new cricket season we talk to England women’s cricket star Sarah Taylor about her sporting schooldays and look at the rise of girls’ cricket in schools.


We take the heads of sport at one of Britain’s oldest independent schools (Colfe’s in London) and one of our more modern state schools (Leigh Academy in Kent) – and ask them to swap places for a day.


We also investigate how schools are embracing the high-tech sports revolution and see what life is like for a British PE teacher in Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia in our popular sports teacher abroad series.


As always our advertisers provide a wide range of the best sports products and services on the market. Please give them a call.


Have a great summer term.




A much wiser man than me once said that the only way to improve your game was to play someone better than you.


Watching the Rugby World Cup and seeing so-called minnows punch above their weight and give established countries a real run for their money (where once they would have got thrashed) was prove of that.


It ties into the belief that you learn a lot more from losing that winning, especially winning easily, and nowhere does it apply more that in the school sport arena.


One of the great pleasures in setting up our own national competitions that complement the excellent work done by school sport associations and national governing bodies is seeing state schools and independent teams compete alongside and against each other.


Most of the time, these same sides play the same circuit week in and week out – so to play teams outside of your area (or even outside your comfort zone) is a breath of fresh air.


For many state schools, it is often a chance to test their skills against sides with a better pedigree and better facilities – and learn and develop from the experience.


For independent schools, it is an opportunity to play different opposition on different grounds and pitches (and often realise how fortunate they are to have such great facilities and coaching).


And if schools do get well beaten, it is not the end of the world. They must simply pick themselves up, dust themselves off and come out fighting and better prepared next time.


You just have to watch Japan against South Africa in the Rugby World Cup to appreciate that.


Our New Year edition rounds up a host of schools’ competitions including the national cross country, tennis and swimming finals as well as progress reports from the world of netball and rugby union.


Our exclusive list of the best independent sports schools of 2015 shows a host of familiar faces being challenged by some new names.


Sarah Juggins investigates the pros and cons of the sports scholarship system and looks at the how Britain’s boom sport of cycling has filtered its way down to the country’s schools.


Have a great New Year and super sporting Spring term




One of our most eagerly-awaited features each year is the countdown of the country’s top sporting schools.


It’s a list that is now in its third year and one that is split over two publications – with the best sporting stage schools in this edition and the best independent schools in our January issue.


It’s always guaranteed to spice up our inbox and mailbag with schools either gutted about not making the extended top 100 list or overjoyed about being included.


Probably the most common question is how on earth is the list compiled and what have schools got to do to get into it.


Well the most common response is that you are doing incredibly well if you make the top 100 and unbelievably well if you make the top 30.


Both figures represent the top 3% and top 1% of state schools and the top 10% and top 3% of independent schools. So the first thing to point out is that you aren’t doing anything wrong just because you don’t make the list.


It’s based on schools’ performances in more than 20 different sports and more than 120 competitions, all of whom are included in our magazine’s results pages and online at the results pages of our one-stop-shop website


Reaching the final rounds of two or three national competitions puts you in pole position. So in those immortal words ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it.’


Which brings us to a forthcoming feature we are planning to establish the importance (or otherwise) that schools put on entering national schools competitions.


Why do you do so? What do you get out of them? If not why not? What are the barriers that prevent you from you doing so? What more could be done to encourage you to do so? Email us via [email protected]


And so to the current edition which has a host of regular and special features to liven debate and stimulate conversation.


Among many articles, we look at how indoor rowing is proving to be one of the best sports that schools can adopt to improve fitness levels – and have fun at the same time.


We also examine if hockey can appeal to all schools or if it is the domain of the independent elite and if partnership with premiership football teams is the ultimate school-club link.


We ask if there is life after teaching PE while Dan Abraham, director of football at King Edward’s School, Witley looks at the real benefits of school sport.


Regular columnist John Deadman tackles the question of multi-sports participation or individual specialism.


We also travel to China for a very special pupil diary and report from Malaysia about teaching sport abroad in a new regular feature.


Have a great sporting second half of term in the meantime.




At the start of a new school year, I think it is only right that we pay tribute to a silent troupe of teachers and ex-teachers who go about their business often unrecognized and unacknowledged.


School sport associations, many of whom have been going for more than 50 years, exist solely to provide sports competitions and activities to Britain’s next generation.


Thankfully several such associations in sports such as athletics, cricket, football, golf, gymnastics and table tennis are thriving as we profile in the first of our two-part special inside.


Unfortunately other associations have been forced to disband, been gobbled up or, worse still, cut adrift by NGBs anxious to control their sport themselves.


Yet in doing so they have lost a huge well of experienced teachers and an unerring passion for organizing school sport, without payment or reward. Unfortunately it’s a resource that will be hard to replicate or rediscover.


At this time of year, it is also nice to thank those organisations and schools that go out of their way to communicate their sporting achievements to us and other outlets.


When you spend so much time and effort organizing matches, competitions, festivals and events (and do so with the skills and expertise that other commercial bodies would be proud of) it is remiss that so little thought is often given to publicizing those same events and accomplishments.


Some such as rugby union are fortunate and forward-thinking enough to empower this provision to the experts in the form of the RFU’s official press office.


Others such as table tennis are lucky to have a keen official and volunteer who recognizes the importance of publicity, not just to his own organisation’s benefit, but that of its associated sponsors as well.


Other large NGB’s such as football, cricket, athletics, hockey and netball (not to mention smaller sporting bodies) would do well to follow their lead.


As would schools who achieve wonderful things in national competitions or innovative sports and then don’t have the time or inclination to shout about it. Please do so. We love to hear from everybody.


Elsewhere in our bumper, back-to-school September edition, we take two sports teachers from two, totally-different, schools and let them swap jobs. The result, and their thoughts, are fascinating.


We also look back on a great summer of sport (yes the sun did shine for most of the summer term) with reports on cricket, athletics, tennis rounders and golf, among others.


We examine if free schools are making a sporting difference and our regular Life In The Week Of, My Sporting Life, and Pupil Diaries continue to prove very popular. If you would like to take part in the future, just get in touch.


Finally, the start of the first term of the new school year focuses teachers’ thoughts on purchasing sports goods and services for their departments and pupils.


So whether it’s a fantastic sports tour or great sports equipment, check out some of our excellent advertisers inside.




Isn’t it frustrating how exams get in the way of summer sport in schools?


As we bathe in the season of sunshine and smiles, am I alone in thinking that the situation getting worse?


Even if we take for granted the premise that testing is a necessary evil, the exam season, which used to be a tiny blip in an otherwise unblemished term, now seems to extend through ever-increasing weeks and ever-extended year groups.


Its tentacles tarnish the very fabric of school sport, that of participation, competition and enjoyment. No-one seems to escape its vice-like grip.


When you throw in the vagaries of the weather and seemingly shorter and shorter terms (some schools break up at the end of June for goodness sake), sport is a big loser.


As a result, fewer and fewer matches are being arranged and more and more games are being cancelled as teachers tear their hair out at the shortage of pupils to pick from.


Take our School Sport Magazine National Schools U17 Cricket Cup, now in its sixth season, for example.


More schools than ever entered this year yet more schools than ever gave their opponents a walkover after realising their year 11 and 12 pupils would be missing in the time leading up to half term.


Other schools seem to manage perfectly all right, either by arranging their games before and after the busy exam season. Perhaps they can pass on tips to their colleagues elsewhere.


Far be it for me to decry exams across the board (I do appreciate their importance – honestly). But heads of department need the patience of Job to plan out their summer schedules these days.


While competitive sport is under increasing pressure, there is still much to celebrate in our 55th edition inside.


With the world snooker championships just behind us, we look at how the sport is promoting the game to the school community.


And with the women’s World Cup taking place in Canada, we celebrate the end of another successful school football season while England star Alex Scott recalls her sporting schooldays.


We examine how schools don’t need to go near the water to enjoy the sport of rowing and whether the lecture hall or the sports hall is the best way for PE teachers to get a foothold in the profession.


Meanwhile more advertisers than ever are appreciating the importance of School Sport Magazine in promoting their goods and services to our ever-growing family of readers. Our continued thanks to them and you.




We don’t receive many irate phone calls at School Sport towers fortunately but one I received recently got me thinking.


The caller was a parent from London whose son had been barred from playing in an important English Schools’ U15 football cup match by his club.


Apparently with training, other fixtures and the risk of injury, the thought of another game in the boy’s busy schedule was a hurdle too far.


Which is a shame. A crying shame. For the boy, the school and the club concerned, the name of which will remain under wraps, for now at least.


The result of the match should have been less significant than the bigger issue. Apart from the fact that the school lost after extra time in a penalty shoot-out.


The boy was gutted, as were his parents, his teammates and the school. The club almost certainly couldn’t care a fig. Yet these were lost opportunities and lost memories that can never be recovered.


Surely if the ESFA have their hands tied, then it is the responsibility of the FA to get involved. Governance of the grass roots game sometimes involves telling clubs things they don’t want to hear. For the greater good.


As one sport prepares for its year’s end, then another gets ready for a bright beginning with the start of the school’s cricket season.


And with the men’s game rather a dirty word at the moment, we thought we would take this edition to focus on the growth in the female game.


We highlight the second School Sport Magazine National U15 Girls Cup, take a look at how one Yorkshire state school is inspiring the next generation of women players and talk to England captain Charlotte Edwards about how her own sporting schooldays set her on the road to success.


We also look at the concerns for school’ s cricket generally in the face of ever-encroaching exams and English School’s longstanding general secretary Ken Lake takes a critical overview of school’s cricket in 2015.


Elsewhere in the magazine, we reflect the growing importance of strength and conditioning in school sport with a new regular feature entitled Let’s Get Physical.


We look at how schools are fighting back against the fitness timebomb, how confusion is muddling the debate over competitive sport in schools and ask if the primary sport premium is actually providing value for money?


And John Deadman, our erudite director of sport columnist, questions whether schools are competing on a level playing field when it comes to competitive sport. Have a great summer term.




A recent visit to the United States reinforced several notions about an otherwise fine and optimistic country.


While its food leaves much to be desired and its television, except for a few shining exceptions, is remarkable only for its banality, there is surely no country in the world that celebrates school sport like the USA.


Search carefully enough through various cable TV networks and you can watch high school sport from the comfort of your armchair.


Look beyond the football pitch, the baseball field and the basketball court and you see stadia packed full with spectators, from mums, dads, brothers and sisters to hundreds of genuine sports fans.


Rather than the odd paragraph in the local newspaper, matches are picked over at length over several column inches in large regional and national papers.


This is school sport American-style where competition is not a dirty word but a metaphor that sums up the country’s psyche, its desire to win and its challenge to succeed, whatever the odds.


Their competitive structure is not unlike our own with local, county and regional events leading to shining beacons of national finals with razzmatazz more associated with Disney than downtown Dudley. They just have more schools involved.


The competitors – still just teenage pupils – are turned into mini heroes at a young age and thrust into a public spotlight that young sportsmen and women in Britain can only dream about as they parade their talents at the highest level in front of just a dedicated few.


Likewise, American sports teachers and directors of sport – or athletic directors to give them their proper name – are revered above all others and can attract superstar salaries to match, often being headhunted for a few dollars more based on raw sporting success, not on their general teaching credentials.


I’m not sure how many sports teachers in this country have crossed the pond from America or are thinking of working in the United States in search of new challenges. But we’d love to hear from you.


Back home, as temperature’s plummet towards zero and the icy blast of winter takes hold, thousands of pupils in hundreds of schools will be emulating their transatlantic neighbours, albeit in a less high-profile fashion.


Our 53rd edition gives an insight to the best of it, from football, netball and rugby competitions to cross-country, tennis, hockey and many more.


Following our list of the country’s top state sports schools, we unveil the country’s best independent sports schools based on competitive achievement, with an extended top 100 revealed on our website.


And we go beyond the sports field to highlight the work of sports teachers, PE departments and sports initiatives all over the country.


Have a great term and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have anything to shout about or wish to take part in any of our regular features.




It’s long since been an enigma to me why secondary schools are well-stocked with specialist PE teachers yet primary schools are often bereft.


Why would a school system deprive their youngest and most needy pupils of expert physical education at a time when their bodies are developing the most and their minds are eager to experience new challenges?


They wouldn’t do it with maths or English, science or history so why with PE. It doesn’t make sense now or ever.


Of course you have some schools with great teachers who love sport and do their best to impart that passion and knowledge to their young charges. Sadly they are in a minority.


It’s a dilemma we examine in a special feature inside our 52nd edition asking the question: “Is a specialist PE teacher in every primary school a reality or just a pipedream?”


The Government’s primary sports premium is a help but it only restores part of the funding snatched away from the dismantled school sport partnership network.


More needs to be done if more of our young people are to get the dedicated and professional physical education they deserve.


Elsewhere the Autumn term has seen hundreds of schools embark on a another eventful road brimful of competitive sporting opportunities.


And while thousands of pupils learn the lessons, both joyful and sad, of winning and losing, we reveal the country’s top thirty state sport schools of 2014, with the top 100 available soon exclusively on our newly-redesigned website


It is the second list of what will become an annual chart and once again it throws up some recurring names and some newcomers breaking into the list for the first time.


Number one this year might be a surprise to some but we examine their achievements and sporting ethos in a separate feature. It’s a fascinating read.


And if all you independent schools are feeling a little left out, don’t worry. Your time will come in our January edition when you will also get the chance to compare your achievements against state schools. The results should be intriguing.


Another rich and varied edition also features rising sprint star Adam Gemili’s sporting schooldays and the chance to meet the Kent school giving northern rugby league a run for its money.


Don’t miss director of sport John Deadman’s excellent column on the thorny question of parent power and Mark Nasey’s take on how Warwick School turned into a rugby union powerhouse.


Our life in the week of and pupil diary features continue to prove popular reads and there’s an opportunity to win £500 worth of sports ball. Have a great half term in the meantime.




As we celebrate our tenth anniversary at the magazine this month, I’d like to share with you one of the best bits of advice I was ever given about running a business, organisation or professional body.


Needless to say it wasn’t the recommendation (by many) that we should forget any idea of setting up a publication dedicated to the school sport community.


Instead it was that it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is or well you run it because if you don’t tell enough people about it, it will never fulfil its potential.


Those sentiments are especially relevant in school sport as news, communication and marketing are the lifeblood of this exciting world – yet too few people still don’t consider it a priority.


Over the last decade we have received tens of thousands of press releases and news items, many of which we have been able to accommodate in the magazine or on our website (now read by 50,002 people every month).


However it is safe to say that these still represent a small minority of the potential opportunities out there for schools, national governing bodies and sports companies.


Despite much prompting, much of the excellent work and organisation that goes into running sports governing bodies and school sport associations goes unnoticed because they don’t tell enough people about them.


There are exceptions of course – the RFU, Badminton England and the English Schools Golf and Table Tennis Associations would probably top a poll of most proactive organisations.


Others such as the English Schools Cricket Association and Tennis Foundation do their best with limited resources. Unfortunately others seem to do little or nothing at all.


It is the same with schools. Some independent schools fortunate enough to have their own press or marketing departments send out releases on an ad-hoc basis (although many have to be reminded).


Other keen heads of department or PE staff do their best to promote their school’s achievements while juggling busy working lives. The vast majority unfortunately still don’t.


It’s doesn’t have to be a work of prose. Our sub-editors are very adept at turning any information into a magazine report. Just take ten minutes to send out something.


It’s could be a progress report on a national schools competition or a great or unusual feat of achievement in a school match. We will usually be able to slot it into the magazine or on our website news pages which have been given a tenth anniversary makeover (check out


In the meantime, we look ahead to the next ten years with a positive outlook because so much superb work is going on in school sport – exciting competitions, superb initiatives and great innovation – and we will capture as much of it as possible – with your help of course. Have a great year.




As we celebrate the 50th edition and tenth anniversary of School Sport Magazine, it’s hard to know where the last decade has gone.


Looking back on issue one, it’s safe to say we have developed the magazine rather a lot over the last ten years. Mind you it did need it.


I remember those early days and the harbingers of doom telling us we wouldn’t last past the first couple of editions, let alone the first year.


Not enough people will want to read about sport in schools, they said. There’s not enough going on is there? No-one plays any more. They’ve sold off all the playfields. How wrong they were.


Today the hardest part of our jobs here is deciding what to leave out of every edition because there is so much going on.


If it’s not the multitude of competitions being played out every day throughout the year, it’s the different issues that affect sport in schools or the array of great personalities that play it or deliver it.


Of course we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for a great deal of support from a great number of people. To those we owe a huge and continuous debt of gratitude.


So thank-you to our thousands of subscribers, many of whom have been with us from the word go and many of whom join us every year. Keep spreading the word about us.


In return we will continue to celebrate and record the great work you do and the wonderful sporting opportunities you provide for your pupils.


Thank you also to our loyal band of advertisers who appreciate the different ways we can help you to grow your business.


School sport is a multi-million pound industry - whether it is sports equipment, sports clothing, sports travel or sporting innovation – and there are thousands of schools interested in your goods and services as many of you appreciate.


So what would we like to see in the future? Well more of the same of course. And much more as well. We welcome your contributions, whether it’s competition match reports, news stories, ideas for issues to report on, contributions to our letters pages or volunteers for our regular features.


But we’d actually like to hear from more of you, more often. We’ll guarantee we’ll include as many of you as possible. So don’t be shy. Get in touch.


And next time you hear about a politician or radio phone-in bemoaning the lack of sport in schools, don’t listen in silence. Speak out or point them in our direction. Your efforts need to be recognised.


And what of those critics. They didn’t get it ten years ago and they still don’t get it. Fortunately enough of us do. Here’s to the next ten years.




I’d like to share a story with you about a wonderful sports teacher who is too humble to commit her tale to print.


Given the task of looking after a new intake of year 7s, many of whom had little or no experience of netball, she nevertheless set about the job with gusto.


To enhance their first season, she decided to enter the team into the county U12 cup, only to see them compete bravely but lose more matches than they won.


Undaunted, the teacher organised more training sessions the following season and saw her now U13s win the county cup.


Inspired to go one better this year, she organised specialist coaching at lunchtime and after school and saw her U14s not only win the county cup but also the regional competition and qualify for the national finals, where they certainly weren’t disgraced.


This state school, with limited resources, showed what can be done when you have a dedicated sports teacher and a squad of players who are motivated and determined to improve.


I relate this tale as we approach the tenth anniversary of this magazine – and with our 50th edition in sight – as I think it sums up everything about sport in schools in 2014 and how much excellent, and largely unheralded, work goes on.


I also hope it will nudge other teachers out there to get in touch with similar stories of turning around an ordinary team into one of national quality. I look forward to hearing from you.


Of course, success through hard work and commitment is a mantra practised by the majority of the country’s top 30 independent sports schools, which we reveal for the first time in our exclusive centre page list.


Following on from our top 30 list of sporting state schools in our January edition, which provoked one of the more sizeable email reactions we have received to date, it throws up an intriguing mix of established and more unheralded names.


Elsewhere in our 49th edition, we look back on an exciting Spring term which featured more than 52 different competitions. We meet the Kent school that taught Olympic skeleton champion Lizzy Yarnold and examine whether cheerleading really is a sporting alternative for girls.


We also investigate if schools are spending their primary sports premium wisely, look back on tennis star Heather Watson’s sporting schooldays and check out exactly what sports governing bodies are doing for schools.


There’s a six-page special on sports tours and trips for schools and a wonderful insight into teaching rugby union successfully from the coach of one the country’s most successful rugby schools Dulwich College.


Happy reading and have a great summer term in the meantime.




It’s a list that has already raised a few eyebrows but we don’t apologise for that.


Selecting the country’s 100 best sporting state schools was never going to be an easy task yet compiling it has been a huge amount of fun.


Right from the outset we wanted it to represent schools that had achieved competitive success at the highest level in a range of different sports.


That meant that one school that dominated one particular sport might feature in the top 100 but it wasn’t going to make the highest echelons.


It also meant that schools that have done wonders to raise participation levels or introduce marvellous new initiatives or innovations into their sporting curriculum wouldn’t be considered.


It’s not that these values are not recognised. They are. We have recognised them on our pages on numerous occasions and will continue to do so. Other organisations recognise them in different ways with different awards.


We have never believed that competition at the highest level is a dirty word nor that it is wrong to celebrate it. Our 100 best list is just celebration on a broader scale.


Those schools that are on the list should be incredibly proud of themselves. They should holler it from the rooftops and tell as many people as people as possible about it whether they are number one or 100.


For those that haven’t made it, don’t worry. We could have extended it to the top 200 or top 500. But we had to draw a line somewhere. Many will never want to be honoured in such a way anyway. And for those that do there is always next year.


Just remember that the next time you hear a politician or talking head spouting off about the lack of competitive sport in school, refer them to this edition. And shout very loudly.


Our first magazine of the New Year celebrates the national school finals held last term and marks the progress of the many and varied national competitions being contested up and down the country.


We have also tracked down the minister responsible for school sport (yes there really is one) and put some pertinent questions to him on your behalf. We also look at primary sport in rural communities.


Elsewhere teachers highlight why we must inspire girls to enjoy sport and PE as well as how to coach cross country successfully. And, on the eve of the Winter Olympics, we investigate how schools are turning to snowsports to add a little spice to their sporting curriculum.


I hope you enjoy our new look magazine and thanks again to our many and varied array of advertisers who help pay our bills and who really can add value to your sports department. Please give them a ring.




It was a throwaway comment from Sir Chris Hoy in the middle of a longer interview but one I’d like to share with you.


Talking about his remarkable success, one of our greatest living sportsmen harked back to his schooldays in Scotland when he enjoyed an all-round sporting education. He showed promise but never excelled.


“I was surrounded by some incredibly talented schoolboys, many of whom had much more natural talent than I did,” he recalled.


“What I had was a great drive and ambition and a willingness to work as hard as possible. You can’t achieve anything without talent but the other qualities are really what makes the difference.”


Those are surely words that should inspire thousands of budding sportsmen and women as they take part in games up and down the country this term.


Children want different things out of sport and identifying that is key to successfully managing talented players and teams, especially at school.


Every teacher will recognise the naturally gifted pupil who seemingly doesn’t have to try to perform above and beyond most of their peers.


Some will go onto great things like Gareth Bale, whose extraordinary talents were obvious to PE teacher Gwyn Morris at Whitchurch High School in Cardiff, as we feature inside. Others will burn out.


Those who mustn’t be neglected are the children whose biggest asset is their drive and ambition which will see them succeed where others fail. Check out our sporting schooldays interview with Olympic cycling star Dani King for starters.


Just how schools cope with elite pupils (and how those pupils cope with the rigours of school life) is a perennial question that we seek the answers too in our four-page feature inside.


Elsewhere the Government’s new £150m initiative to improve the lot of sport in primary schools is being rolled out across the country.


Our special feature looks at the different ways schools are spending their windfall. It won’t exactly change the sporting landscape but every little helps. Long may it continue.


May we wish a warm welcome to John Deadman, the passionate director of sport at Dr Challoner’s Grammar School in Amersham, who will be sharing his thoughts on school sport as a regular columnist with us over the coming months, starting inside.


We’d like to find a female equivalent, someone who wishes to espouse her views with equal passion and foresight. All application will be welcome so please get in touch. Enjoy the rest of the term.




Did you hear about the parents who took their primary school to the European Court because their son lost a 100m race on sports day?


Apparently submitting the child to the pressures of competition left him scarred for life and in serious breach of his human rights.


Fortunately, it’s an apocryphal story for the time being but don’t bet against such a headline appearing somewhere in the next couple of years if political correctness continues its merry jaunt.


Competition does and should remain at the forefront of school sport because winning and losing fortifies the soul, inspires the human spirit and broadens the mind.


Of course it must never be at the expense of sport for all. But competition is key to success in life beyond the classroom so schools must reflect that and strive to provide it is at the forefront of their sports provision.


Our latest edition looks back on a wonderful summer term of activity when the sun shone brightly (for a change) and dozens of national tournaments in a range of sports from cricket, rounders and athletics to golf, tennis and rugby league reached exciting conclusions.


Skills were honed, pulses were sent racing and memories were forged that will last a lifetime. I hope our write-ups do the individual sports and those that took part justice.


On a similar theme, we look in more detail at a report which says girls are put off competitive games as they get older.


If true, this is a sad state of affairs coming just twelve months after the London Olympics. Everything must be done to ensure any such trend is reversed lest the spirit the 2012 Games is lost.


Elsewhere we will be watching closely to see how the Government’s new £150m boost to primary school sport is utilised by headteachers.


Let’s hope the schools spend it wisely on long-term benefits to their sports curriculum rather than short-term fixes. Let’s also hope the Government extends the money on offer so that schools can plan ahead with certainty.


Just how the money is being spent and the boost it gives to PE in primary schools will be the subject of a series of articles over the coming twelve months. Anyone with any thoughts is welcome to get in touch.


Finally our bumper September edition offers a look at the woman believed to be the country’s only female director of cricket and the sporting schooldays of Britain’s ever-smiling Olympic boxing gold medallist Nicola Adams.


There’s a look at out how one teacher combines a full-time career as a PE teacher with playing for her country and how another school nurtured the career of one of England’s most promising young footballers.


We look back on school sport week, how your school can enter into the spirit of Sport Relief and how you can look forward to organising a great sports tour.


Once again if there is anything you’d like to see featured or investigated over the coming months, please let us know. Also please get in touch with any of the numerous advertisers in the current edition. They offer great value sports products and services, not to mention helping to pay our bills.


Have a great year in the meantime.




The power to inspire is one of sport’s most enduring and endearing qualities.


That’s why no-one must ever underestimate the effect that Britain’s great Olympians had on the watching millions last year.


People are already quick to run down the legacy of London 2012 in a bid to fill cheap column inches. But to do so would be a mistake, even if everything isn’t rosy out there.


There will have been moments during the Games that will live long in the minds of everyone, not least the next generation who will thrive and prosper from those memories.


Two of my favourite were Helen Glover and Heather Stanning winning our first gold medal in the rowing and Jade Jones triumphing in taekwondo.


Both Helen and Jade feature in our latest edition. Both represent sports that may not be mainstream school activities. But they are none less captivating as are their stories.


Their sports of rowing and taekwondo also represent both an opportunity and a challenge to schools to offer to pupils who may not fit into mainstream games or who may just want to try something different.


Finding the time, equipment and coaching necessary isn’t always easy but it is something that sports departments must do, linked often to outside clubs, if the legacy of the Games is to live on and flourish.


Other sports such as cricket, rounders, basketball and hockey feature prominently in our latest edition. But one sport that we pay special attention to deserves a special mention.


Badminton may not receive as many national column inches as other games. But the work done by Badminton England to grow the sport in schools all over the country should be recognised and congratulated.


Their programmes, initiatives and national competitions have raised the profile in hundreds of schools that previously did not play the game. It augurs well for the future of the sport.


As if there is not enough happening this term, next term will see the start of primary school sport receiving the attention it deserves.


The first tranche of funding will be allocated to headteachers to spend exactly as they see fit. Exactly what that is remains to be seen.


The easy solution would be short-term spending to solve temporary problems when long-term investment in training and coaching to provide decent sports provision for the future is key.


We’d love to hear from primary schools to find out what you are doing so please get in touch. Just email [email protected] and enjoy the rest of the summer in the meantime.




The good folk of School Sport Magazine have been having a good natter amongst themselves and, more importantly, with dozens of sports teachers all over the country.


On the whole, we are a very positive group of people who see the good in most things and want the best for most people.


That means the Government’s announcement of a £150m boost to primary school sport has to be welcomed, albeit with a quizzical tone.


The biggest question is why on earth would they dismantle the excellent school sport partnership programme, which helped primary PE more than anything, then reinstate much of the funds in a different form just two years later.


If you were being kind, you could level accusations of lack of foresight and forward planning at the very least. Misguided and myopic may be nearer the point.


In the meantime, let’s hope the money is spent mainly on training future PE specialists who will benefit our future generations rather than on temporary measures that will only bring short-term advantage.


It’s early days yet, as our special report on pages 8-10 shows, but we’d love to hear how your primary school is planning to spend its money. Get in touch and let us know.


Elsewhere, Ofsted’s recent report on PE in schools should also be a wake-up call for educationalists everywhere. Are PE lessons too soft? Check out our special feature on pages 42-43.


Rules and regulations are incorporated into every schools competition to ensure guidelines and fair play are followed by all.


However every rules committee has to accommodate some degree of flexibility otherwise the sense of fair play flies out of the window.


Such is the case of the story we feature on page seven where Central Newcastle High School reached the finals of England Netball’s national championships – only to be disqualified because of a 10p debt.


They paid their subs in full as soon as they were made aware of their shortfall and, if England Netball had a problem, then they shouldn’t have accepted them into the competition in the first place.


To cry foul at such a late stage shows the governing body in a very mean light. Common sense should have prevailed and Newcastle should have been allowed to compete in the finals.


As you read this, I’m hoping warm weather is not far away, especially as last year’s summer term was such a washout.


Our bumper new edition celebrates 84 pages of the very best of school sport in the first part of 2013. I hope you enjoy it. Let’s hope the new term brings as much challenge and excitement.




A new year should bring with it nothing but hope and expectation, especially with the warm glow of London 2012 lingering in people’s hearts and minds.


Instead the Government’s insistence on carrying on with the savage cuts to the school sport partnership programme means many have just a few months before the money runs out for good.


Unless schools have a forward-thinking headteacher who genuinely values physical education and the benefit of sport for all and is willing to back that thought with hard cash, many pupils will be poorer within weeks.


Coaching will be cut, competitions axed and after-school clubs slashed as our investigation into two years of reduced funding on pages 34-37 reveals.


There are other funding streams that schools can access as another report on pages 27 and 28 discovers. But these can only provide a sticky plaster over what is rapidly becoming a gaping wound.


If we do nothing else between now and July, we must keep the lobbying going so that all the great work of the last decade doesn’t go to waste.


One welcome development in recent years has been how state schools have enjoyed more success in national school competitions compared to when this magazine launched in 2004.


Sports such as athletics, football and netball - where provision is universal and facilities don’t need to be top notch to bring success – have always seen state schools able to hold their own.


Now even traditional sports such as rugby and cricket have seen the state sector closing the gap on their independent rivals.


Other sports such as hockey however don’t appear to be following suit. And they won’t do so in the immediate future if our report on page nine is anything to go by.


Dr Challoner’s Grammar School, the one state school to reach England Hockey’s U16 boys indoor hockey finals this month, were asked to fork out £250 for the privilege of reaching the finals.


That was on top of the £180 in entry fees they had already paid. If England Hockey want to encourage more state schools to play the game, this is definitely not the way to go about it.


Alex Danson, our cover story and the inspirational hockey striker who helped Britain win a bronze medal at the Olympics, devotes a large portion of her down time to inspiring the next generation.


Let’s hope her efforts don’t go to waste.