There is, however, considerable debate, both within the public and private sectors, as to whether the central focus of schools should be competitive sport and the production of top athletes or the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles. “It’s a nuanced landscape,” said Rollings, who has worked at four independent schools for more than 20 years teaching.
In addition to scholarships, many independent schools offer various programs open to the wider community. “I started my journey in the public sector,” said former England rugby union captain Lawrence Dallaglio. “I moved into the independent sector and there was a whole other wealth of opportunity. Independent schools should be required to open their facilities to the public for a period of time if they want to have charitable status.
Alison Oliver, chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said ‘the life-changing benefits of play and sport’ should be a fundamental tenet of all education systems and that extra-curricular physical education and sport should be a priority national. “The data clearly shows that young people from more affluent backgrounds are not only more active, but report feeling more confident and enjoying more of the broader benefits of an active lifestyle,” she said. “Physical education, school sport and school equipment have an essential role to play in leveling the playing field.”
At the World Cup 20 years ago, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s entire England squad were state educated. This remained the case among the Lionesses who triumphed this summer but the rise of selective schools can already be seen in the last men’s England team, where five players (Trent Alexander-Arnold, Phil Foden, Nick Pope, Jude Bellingham and Fikayo Tomori) attended private schools or high schools.
Club academies now often have close ties to local independent schools, and experts have predicted the trend will follow in women’s football, which is set to increasingly challenge hockey as the sport of choice.