Saudi Arabia have already allowed women to compete at the last two editions of the Summer Olympic Games ©Getty Images

Female students in Saudi Arabian will be allowed to play sport at school for the first time after the lifting of a longstanding ban.

According to an announcement published by the Education Ministry, girls schools will offer physical education lessons beginning in the next school year "in accordance with Islamic law standards".

It will vary “according to the possibilities available in each school” but include sports halls and "competent" female instructors.

The Ministry added that it forms part of their Vision 2013 strategy for economic and developmental growth.

“This overdue reform is absolutely crucial for Saudi girls, who have been denied their basic human right to health through exercise, joining teams, and the long-term health, economic, and education benefits of sports,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch (HRW). 

“This important step forward can advance human rights and health for women despite the daunting legal hurdles that remain in the country.”

HRW have long campaigned for improved rights for women in Saudi Arabia.

Fencer Lubna Al-Omair was one of four Saudi Arabian women to participate at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images
Fencer Lubna Al-Omair was one of four Saudi Arabian women to participate at Rio 2016 ©Getty Images

But they have pointed that questions remain over how the changes will be implemented given the lack of infrastructure for women's sport in the fiercely Islamic Kingdom.

“Sports for girls in Saudi state schools is a significant advance that gets the reform ball rolling,” Worden added. 

“But women and girls will not be able to see the full health, economic, and education benefits of sport until the male guardianship system is gone.”

Four Saudi Arabian women participated at last year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Sarah Attar raced in the women's marathon and Lubna Al-Omair competed in foil fencing, while Cariman Abu Al-Jadail raced in the 100 metres and Wujud Fahmi featured in the under 52 kilograms judo.

All received wildcard entries to follow the trail blazed by two athletes - Attar and judoka Wojdan Shaherkani - who participated at London 2012.