'We can't allow sports days to be scrapped'

As the timetables are trimmed and school fields are sold off, sports days are disappearing. We must fight for them, writes Colin Harris

Sports day, primary sports day, secondary sports day, school's sports day

The sun is shining, the Sats are over, and we’re in the final stretch to the summer holidays. Over the next few weeks, children all over the country will be limbering up for sports day.

Or so I’d assumed.

I was talking to one mum recently who told me that her daughter's school no longer has a sports day of any kind.

It’s not news to say that PE is one of the subjects that’s been cut from the timetable the most. Tes reported in May that 51,600 hours of PE were lost between 2010 and 2017. And now it seems that sports day has been thrust into the rubbish bin along with all the other events in the school calendar that are deemed to take up too much time. And when you add to the mix the number of school fields that have been sold off, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing a decline.

Sports days have a very important role – we cannot allow them to be scrapped. They should be a celebration of physical activity with winners and losers and, if done properly, there should be something for everyone to be involved in. They involve the whole community, and give parents, grandparents, carers, aunts and uncles a really positive window into school life. The majority of children love the days and all that they stand for. And yet in recent years it seems that we’ve become somewhat confused about the role sports days should play.

A Mumsnet conversation I stumbled across highlights this. One writer posted this: “It's a day when nobody takes any notice of who wins or who loses. No prizes, no announcements of first, second and third place, no commiserating the stragglers at the end of races. The same for all. Great for everyone's self esteem, but sport? No.”

Winning and losing is part of life, and helps to build resilience in individuals. As I said before, little Johnny may not win the 100 metres, but he may come second in the sack race. If a sports day is truly catered for all, there will always be something that a child can participate in. I for one will enjoy the egg and spoon race, the tug of war and the balancing act of keeping a beanbag on one's head while running down the field. I will be cheering the winners and, of course, those trailing behind. 

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were “outstanding” across all categories

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