"Team GB’s medal winners are still four times more likely to have been privately educated than the general population"by Peter Lampl / August 25, 2016 / Leave a comment
Not only have the athletes of Team GB made Rio 2016 Britain’s most successful away Olympic Games for over a century, they’ve also challenged the traditional dominance of independent schools in elite sports.
Our analysis found that less than a third (32 per cent) of Team GB’s 130 medallists attended fee-paying schools, a four percentage point reduction from London 2012, when 36 per cent of Team GB’s winners were privately educated and Beijing in 2008, when nearly 40 per cent of medallists had been to independent schools.
60 per cent of Britain’s medallists this year—including stand-out stars like cyclist Laura Trott and gymnast Max Whitlock—were educated at comprehensive schools. Eight per cent—including Jack Laugher, gold-medal winning diver, and Joanna Roswell-Shand, gold-medal winning cyclist—are alumni of state grammar schools. Jason Kenny, who is now the most successful British Olympian ever after winning three cycling gold medals in Rio, was educated at a comprehensive school in Manchester.
The rise in state-educated medal winners can be largely attributed to the increased investment in sport and focus on nurturing young talent, through lottery funding and UK Sport. Perhaps a reflection of the commitment to British cycling in the past few years, 92 per cent of their medal winners were educated at either a comprehensive or a state grammar school.
But there are still some Olympic sports that remain the preserve of independent schools. Over half of Team GB’s medal winning rowers attended fee-paying schools, as did 50 per cent of the winning women’s hockey team. Despite the successes of comprehensive educated athletes across a whole host of sports, Team GB’s medal winners are still four times more likely to have been privately educated than the general population, of which seven per cent attended a fee-paying school.
This can be explained in part by the focus on sport and the greater resources available at many independent schools: their pupils are more likely to benefit from ample time set aside for sport, state-of-the-art facilities and highly qualified coaches.