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Starters for ten;Talkback

The front row brigade arrive a full half-hour before the start. Armed with cushions, refreshments and sun oil they bag the choicest seats. The rest of sports day is constructed around them: hoops, judges, trestle tables and 100 other chairs.

The head, resplendent in cricketing whites and boater, welcomes everyone, but the PA system, after 12 months buried under PE equipment, sounds less Dolby, more doleful.

Crackle, hiss, squeak, whine -- and they're off. Six Reception kids zig zagging down the track, uncertain where to head for or what to do when they get there.

As usual the secretary is score keeper, a task which requires nerves of steel and a razor sharp brain as the overall tally wouldn't stand up to an audit.

One memorable year the behaviour policy decreed that too much competition was detrimental to an individual's self-worth. Thus, the standard sports day format was replaced by a sports "carousel". An assortment of simultaneous activities spread across the field, with points awarded for participation rather than results. It didn't work. Give 'em naked aggression and fierce competition any day. Everyone seems to cope better, especially the dads.

The parent-teachers' association, as always, provides first-class refreshments. For months no supermarket has been safe: any special offers are snapped up, freezers left empty, soft drinks sections laid bare.

By the end of the day red team has romped away; the kids have enjoyed missing lessons; the secretary hopes no one will check her arithmetic; the head is determined the PA system will work by next year and the caretaker wonders where to start clearing up.

Chris Jones writes under a pseudonym.

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