A leading head teacher has commented that private schools should be proud of their Olympic record and that the presence of boys puts girls off sport, The Telegraph reports.

Caroline Jordan, who is head teacher at Headington School in Oxford, said that girls are more likely to enjoy sport at single-sex schools because there are no boys to “impress”.

She rejected the notion that private schools should be “embarrassed” by the number of Olympic athletes they have produced, but instead be proud of the achievement.

Private schools educate seven per cent of British children, but accounted for 32 per cent of Great Britain’s medal winner at the Rio Olympics of this year, according to Schools Week figures.

Members of the Girls’ School Association (GSA), of which Ms Jordan is president, educated eight medallists. Ms Jordan acknowledged:

“The disproportionate number of medallists and competitors – not just in Team GB – to have been educated in British independent schools has been well documented.”

Research into the education of Britain’s 2012 Olympic squad found that women who had attended single-sex schools were marginally over-represented.

A study published in the International Journal of the History of Sport reported that 45 per cent of female athletes went to single-sex schools, as opposed to 39 per cent of the male contingent. Across the UK, 40 per cent of schools are single-sex.

Ms Jordan explained how girls in mixed schools might be inhibited from playing sport, saying:

“This is partly about access to facilities – even the most progressive of our co-ed colleagues tend to schedule girls’ sports once the boys are sorted – but in my experience it’s really an issue of confidence and peer pressure. With no boys around to ‘impress’, I have always found that girls are far more likely to enjoy running around for an hour at lunchtime on the sports pitch than they might be in a co-ed environment.”

In her speech to the GSA’s annual conference, Ms Jordan informed attendees that a recent poll of GSA sports directors found that 59 per cent believe that non-competitive fitness activities now are just as important to their curriculums as competitive sports, with many saying that they go hand-in-hand and team sports offer girls the chance to learn skills such as leadership and build confidence.