With all schools holding Sports Day events this month or next, and having attended two myself over the past week..... I've been thinking.
My friends and I feel it is such a travesty that so few State Primary Schools feel it is "right" or "fair" to hold a competitive Event. Their reasoning though is just so intrinsically flawed.
"We can't all be good at Sport and it isn't fair on the less able." Is the excuse I usually hear. But how about the classroom then? There are *always* those more able in maths, literacy etc. and I doubt (and seriously hope) no one would advocate holding the more able back to allow everyone to catch up in class. I know it isn't a popular idea that very academically able children have Special Needs (ie need extra support to help them realise their potential, avoid boredom and lack of attention and progress because they can become quickly disillusioned) but deliberately holding the most able back would be so very, very wrong.
So why do we do it on the sports field? Firstly it is rarely the academically gifted who shine at sport and it gives everyone a valuable alternative environment to compete. I know several children who live for their one day of glory having struggled all year in class they sweep the medals board each Sports Day. Life isn't fair, two of my children have to struggle with additional needs like so many others. One has dyslexia and however intelligent he is, on paper and he will probably never attain the grades he deserves, and the other (as you know if you have read here before) struggles with Autism and ADHD.
Trying to create the proverbial level playing field is neither fair, feasible or advisable. It also makes us as adults look pretty stupid, because the children are not daft and know *exactly* who is best at which event and more often than not feel cheated and fobbed off when offered a paltry sticker! Our children are tougher and more savvy than we give them credit for being. They certainly don't expect - and most wouldn't want - an artificially "safe" environment. It's like Health and Safety gone mad all over again but this time interfering with our children's emotional curriculum. You don't have to unkind or uncaring, just realistic. Most primary teachers are innately good at this in any case, and if children are taught to deal with disappointment at a young age in an appropriate setting, whilst being given alternative opportunities to succeed it can only be beneficial.
The real world - be it the Natural World, the Animal Kingdom or Human Society is competitive at all levels from star to finish. Pretending otherwise is to deny the essence of life itself. So bring back reading schemes, House points/credits and grading in our primary schools, the kids love it, they know where they are and it is the most realistic and useful preparation for life after school. In the real world.