Participation in school sports

Participation in school sports is a research-based measure from the Tell Them From Me surveys. It is a source of evidence linked to What works best and the School Excellence Framework.

What is it?

Sport is a physical activity that requires physical exertion, is organised and usually competitive, and played as part of a team or individually.

The Tell Them From Me surveys ask students how frequently they participate in sporting activities across the school, outside of their usual PE class. The results are reported as the percentage of students engaged in school sports, indicating participation in such an activity at least once a week.

Why is it important?

Participation in sports can help students in a multitude of ways. Physical activity can not only contribute to improving students’ physical health, it can also aid in developing social skills and improving mental health, as well as leading to better academic outcomes and school completion. Students who participate in sports during the school years tend to have a positive attitude towards physical activity which does not diminish as they age.

School improvement links

School Excellence Framework element What works best theme
Wellbeing Wellbeing


Evidence base

Caspersen, C., Powell, K., & Christenson, G. (1985). Physical activity, exercise and physical fitness: Definitions and distinctions for health-related research. Public Health Report, 100(2), 129.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). The association between school based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Eime, R. M., Young, J. A., Harvey, J. T., Charity, M. J., & Payne, W. R. (2013). A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents: Informing development of a conceptual model of health through sport. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 10, 98.

Mahoney, J. L. (2000). School extracurricular activity participation as a moderator in the development of antisocial patterns. Child Development, 71(2), 502-516.

Marsh, H. W., & Kleitman, S. (2003). School athletic participation: Mostly gain with little pain. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 25, 205-228.

Tannehill, D., MacPhail, A., Walsh, J., & Woods, C. (2015). What young people say about physical activity: The Children's Sport Participation and Physical Activity (CSPPA) study. Sport, Education & Society, 20, 442-462.

Image: This explainer has been produced in collaboration with The Learning Bar.

Explainers of the Tell Them From Me measures have been produced in collaboration with The Learning Bar. The Tell Them From Me measures are provided by, and remain the intellectual property of, The Learning Bar. The explainers can also be found online within the Tell Them From Me portal. Tell Them From Me and TTFM are trademarks of The Learning Bar.


  • Student engagement and wellbeing
  • Tell Them From Me

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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