A quarter of Team GB athletes went to private school

Compared to two thirds of our rugby team


A quarter of Rio’s Team GB athletes were educated at private school, because they’re better at teaching team-working and collaborative skills.

Making up only seven per cent of the general population, privately-educated students are over-represented in Team GB at the Rio Olympics, with one in four of the athletes coming from public schools.

Attributing this to the “availability of sports scholarships to schools with excellent facilities and coaching,” Susan Hamlyn, director of The Good Schools Guide, also suggests that boarding schools – which are mostly private – are responsible for teaching team-working and collaborative skills, making team sports the most likely to have privately educated athletes.

In 2012, David Cameron expressed his concern that state-educated athletes were being “squeezed-out” due to lack of funds and facilities. Since then, an even greater percentage of GB athletes have come from private education. The Sutton Trust warned that sports are just “not a priority” in many state schools.

Our Olympic hopefuls are faring much better than other sports though. In 2015, 65 per cent of England’s Rugby World Cup squad were privately educated. However, there is evidence to suggest that girls educated at private schools are more likely to become athletes than boys also at private schools. In fact, 27 per cent of female athletes on Team GB were privately-educated, compared to only 21 per cent of the male olympians.

Ms Hamlyn ascribes this to the competitive nature of independent schools allowing girls to thrive in sports. Single-sex schools also offer greater opportunity for women to get involved, with more independent girls’ schools than boys’ schools.

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Amy Tinkler attended an independent single-sex school in Durham

Whilst almost half of girls aged 11-18 avoid sport due to embarrassment or discomfort caused by breasts, students at all-girls schools feel less self-conscious about undertaking a sport. And so, over-representation of the privileged may just be the price to pay for a more gender-balanced team GB.

Nonetheless, juggling sports and studies proves a challenge any young athlete will face, whether at private, state, single-sex or mixed school. 19-year-old Alicia Blagg, an olympic diver representing team GB “had to choose between school or diving,” sacrificing her final year of school of athletic success.