July. Ah, July. Month of end-of term madness. School trips of no educational value whatsoever, meeting your new teacher, ‘fun’ runs, school reports, parents’ evenings, sending kids home with piles of work which will never be looked at again, and the most hideous invention of all….. Sports Day.
I hated sports day. I hated it as a child. I hated it as a teacher. I hate it as a parent. I hate the guilt of being a working parent (but not enough to take the day off, as then I’d have to go to the damn thing and hate it even more).
Back when I was in primary school, it was competitive but straightforward. Wearing clothing of the house colour (I was in yellow house) and terrible 80s shorts, we would all traipse out to the field where we would sit in rows while people ran races. We would cheer on our house runners, and the winners and runners-ups would get a rosette. Some kids were positively festooned with polyester ribbons by the end of the day, like exceptionally flammable bunting.
There would be sprints, relays, obstacles, sack races, three-legged races and that old classic… the egg and spoon. Parents would sit behind the rows of children cheering on their little petals and wonder how long it was till home time, whether they ought to join the parents’ race, and what fresh hell six weeks of summer holidays were about to bring. Some parents, like some children, were more competitive than others.
These days, there is no sitting around cheering on the other year groups and there are definitely no rosettes. There are house points, which I approve of, instead, but I also don’t see an issue with acknowledging that some children are better than others at this. That’s life. The kids who are not so good at running may be good at other stuff and that will be celebrated too, when they smash everyone else in their maths and spelling tests.
No, these days children on sports day must do SPORTS and they must do them ALL DAY. Because it is sports DAY. They must be herded from activity to activity. They must hurl beanbags at buckets. They must throw small rugby ball shaped things with sticks on. Do complicated things with hula hoops. Long jumps. Penalty shootouts. No sitting about cheering their house runners on these days, no siree!
Thing 3’s school followed this pattern but the children had the choice of taking part in competitive or non-competitive activities. The competitive ones would gain them house points, and the others were just for fun. To be fair, they did all get together for track events at the end of the day. Thing 3 said that he had chosen to do the non-competitive events, which was fine until he informed me that one of the non-competitive events was the egg and spoon race.
The bloody egg and spoon race! Non-competitive! How very dare they? That egg and spoon race – for the whole of my primary school career – represented the peak of my sporting achievement. Specifically, not coming last in the egg and spoon race. The race for those kids who have slightly less co-ordination than a baby giraffe. The race where the teachers put those kids that they really couldn’t put through the torture of coming so spectacularly last in any race that required speed. My race. MY RACE. Non-com-bloody-petitive! NON-COM-BLOODY-PETITIVE!!!
Other parents, according to the outraged Y6 whatsapp group (reminding me once again why I have always left these things immediately after being added in previous years) will be complaining that the headteacher enforced the rules she’d made very clear in the letter sent home about sports day. Rules about staying in the parents’ area, not calling your kids over for drinks/suncream/a quick chat. Not taking photos or video, for safeguarding reasons. Those sorts of rules. Other year group chats were available but the content was the same, I am reliably informed. As an ex-teacher I am with the head on this: it’s hard enough herding the kids without having to herd the parents as well. I don’t envy the chair of governors or the head when they open their inbox on Monday morning.
But making the egg and spoon non-competitive? Now THAT I have a problem with.
Things making me less irate this week:
- Two utterly adorable nursery classes on Friday for our school sessions, filled with imaginative kids and engaged teachers
- A sewing commission inspired by the dice bag I made for a colleague’s birthday
- Sherwood on BBC iPlayer.
- Lovely sunshine and a pool to hurl myself into at the end of the day
- My baby is back from her week in Norfolk. I missed her!
Excuse me while I go and hard boil some eggs.
What I’ve been reading:
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old – Hendrik Groen
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michel Chabon