School Sport and Academic Achievement


John Bradley, Lecturer, (, School of Education, University College Cork, Cork, County Cork, Republic of Ireland.


BACKGROUND: Physical Education and School Sport (PESS) is an integral part of the school curriculum in Ireland. Historically the “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind” philosophy has promoted the inclusion of PESS alongside more cognitive school subjects. Research suggests that PESS can promote cognitive function and provide educational benefits. However, there is little research on how the choice of school sport influences academic achievement. This study investigated how participation in school sport influences the Leaving Certificate points score in an Irish secondary school. In particular, the study will investigate how the particular sport chosen by students participating in school sport during their Leaving Certificate years influences their Leaving Certificate results.

METHODS: We recorded the Leaving Certificate scores and sports participation from 402 boys graduating from a secondary school in the Ireland during 2008-2011. Sports participation was assigned 1 of 4 categories: rugby, rowing, soccer, and no sport.

RESULTS: Participation in sports during the Leaving Certificate years conferred a 25.4-point benefit to the final Leaving Certificate score. However, participation in rowing, the only individual sport available in the study, resulted in significantly higher Leaving Certificate scores than rugby, soccer and no sport (p < .05), conferring an additional 73.4-point benefit over the next highest group, rugby.

CONCLUSION: Promoting participation in school sport and providing access to a range of team and individual sports throughout the secondary school years may be a beneficial way to improve students' Leaving Certificate results.