Seventeen free schools that opened last year did not have any on-site sports facilities, the government has admitted.
A response to a freedom of information request from the Local Schools Network website has shown that 53 free schools opened in September 2018.
Of the 41 that the Department for Education provided information for, 17 had no on-site provision for physical education.
All free schools are required to either have access to outdoor space for physical education or to make sure pupils can use nearby, off-site provision.
Janet Downs, from Local Schools Network, said allowing schools to open without on-site PE provision “undermined” government initiatives to encourage sport and exercise.
“Travelling to a local park or leisure centre for, say, an hour of PE once a week is hardly an adequate substitute for having facilities on site,” she said.
Last week, a Schools Week investigation revealed that almost half of all new free schools that opened in the past three years did so in temporary accommodation, with most of these still not in a permanent home. One school said it could not deliver design and technology lessons because its temporary site did not have adequate facilities.
Despite the growing site problems, the government recently confirmed its commitment to delivering more free schools,
The government has also previously been accused of “squandering the Olympic legacy” after approving the sale of school playing fields. Schools Week analysis of school land disposal decisions shows there were 49 approved in 2017, up from 25 in 2016 and 22 in 2015. However only 12 were approved in 2018.
A spokesperson for the DfE said last week it “always endeavours” to open free schools in permanent locations but it “can take some time to secure”. “When this is not possible, we make sure that the temporary site is safe and suitable for educational purposes.”