Author: By Hilary Wilce
School team sports have been growing in popularity for a while now, and we are
a long way from the days when even egg-and-spoon races were banned lest any
child should feel a loser. More than four million pupils now play
competitive school sport, and schools routinely offer a wide choice of games
However, school sports policies, like most things in education, swing too
wildly from one pole to another. With the Olympics coming up, the emphasis
is all on the confidence and fitness that playing to win tends to encourage.
But you are right to point out that schools must also remember those ? very
many ? pupils who actually hate team games. If charging up and down a
netball court or hockey pitch is not something your daughter is good at, it
is vital that she, and others like her, are encouraged to exercise through
more appealing programmes of dance, aerobics, circuits or even just plain
Competitive team sports can build a powerful school ethos that is great for
those on the inside, but needs careful management if it is not to tip over
into an élitist PE culture. As games teachers can all too easily become
caught up in this themselves, it is something that a school’s head teacher
needs to keep an eye on, and that parents should speak up about if they see
Most important is that your daughter has a healthy lifestyle and
well-established routine so she will continue along this path throughout her
adult life. When she goes to secondary school she will take part in a wider
range of activities than she will have experienced at primary school, and
may discover a sport she enjoys and wishes to take to competitive level.
The best schools have both competitive team and individual sports. In an
all-girls school like mine, attendance at clubs and activities is high as
there is less reason to feel self-conscious, and girls soon look to develop
their abilities. It is very healthy for girls to experience competition
through the controlled medium of sport ? this is part and parcel of life.
Senior teacher and ex-head of PE,
Sheffield High School, Sheffield
Independent schools have always known the value of competitive sports, and
that is one reason why parents choose them. They have never shied away from
a competitive ethos and have always encouraged pupils to strive their
hardest at everything. The Government is to be congratulated for
understanding that that needs putting back into state schools.
At school, I had a hockey teacher who always yelled at those who were scared
to tackle, and did more to destroy my confidence than anyone else. Games are
only good for the minority that are good at them.
Next Week’s Quandary
At their voluntary-aided primary school, my children get only 25 minutes for
lunch and thus no time to play. I would like the school to extend its lunch
time, but it does not seem interested in listening. I believe that there are
no statutory guidelines available about the length of play time in schools,
so is there anything else I can do?
Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to
h.wilce @btinternet.com Please include your postal address. Readers whose
replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th
Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce. com, where they
can be searched by topic
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