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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 May, 2003, 21:40 GMT 22:40 UK
Parents banned from school sports day
School sports day
Spectators are 'embarrassing' to pupils, a head teacher says
Parents have been banned from attending a school sports day for fear of "embarrassing" their children.

Head teacher Judith Wressel is introducing a less competitive format for the event at Maney Hill Primary School in Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands.

She said keeping spectators away while changes were made would be in the children's interest.

But one of the banned parents condemned the move as "political correctness gone mad".

'We all feel disappointed'

In a letter to parents, Ms Wressel writes: "Taking part in traditional races can be difficult and often embarrassing for many children, which is why we now envisage a different outdoor activity event which will suit all children."

The decision will be reviewed after the event, with parents possibly returning next year.

In a statement, Ms Wressel said the format of next month's event had been finalised after discussions with pupils, parents, staff and governors.

She added: "We decided to trial this year a new activity-based sports day to ensure all our children take part and enjoy the experience.

"The event involves the children moving from area to area taking part in a variety of activities, some of which will be competitive.

Rob Busst, whose two sons attend the school, said: "They are trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

"This is political correctness gone mad. I have spoken to at least 30 other parents and we all feel disappointed.

Children don't become scarred for life because they lose the egg and spoon race
Rob Busst
"Children don't become scarred for life because they lose the egg and spoon race."

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, added: "Most parents will be horrified. Competition is a part of everyday life and children need to get used to winning and losing.

"This whole idea is nonsense. You have to learn about the real world while you are at school."

A Birmingham education authority spokesman said: "Many schools enjoy sports days with a variety of different activities and games.

"Each school decides the most appropriate way to arrange this in consultation with staff and governors and looking at the needs of all the pupils in the school."

Do you think it is right to ban parents from sports days? Should school sports be competitive? What are your memories of sports days?

Your reaction Parents need to be with their children at sports events. When I played football in college, my parents never came to any game to watch me. Football wasn't important to them. That was many years ago, and I am still sad about it. When my son played football, from when he was twelve years old to the end of his career, I never missed a single game. He remembers that I was always there for him, and that makes him happy and proud of me. When his team won, I was there to share his happiness, and when his team lost, I was there to console him in defeat.
Edward Peterson, USA

Each year, we have had to had a parent escorted from the premises
Alex, Nebraska, United States
I am a little-league American football coach, and I agree with this. I've been coaching for 3 years, and each year, we have had to had a parent escorted from the premises for being too loud and boisterous. We even had a father come out on the field last year after a game and attempt to punch out a coach. It's ridiculous, because it upsets the coaches and the kids as well.
Alex, Nebraska, United States

Although I was never particularly brilliant at sports day both in primary and secondary school - I used to love it. There never used to be a rivalry or fierce competition - if you won something it was good - if you didn't it wasn't the end of the world, I am inclined to think that all this is being brought about by the teachers and the parents - what do the children think or even want? Is anyone sure they are that bothered as long as its fun and lets face it - it gets you out of lessons for the day!
Jenni, UK

A non competitive, full participation activity day is a better format
D Barlow, US
I was a highly competitive athlete, and I believe that a non competitive, full participation activity day is a better format for all children. For those students that need to participate in a competitive environment, there is extra curricular activities such as the track team.
D Barlow, US

School sports day can be great fun for everyone, children and parents alike. It was competitive when I was at school, the four school houses competed against each other, and it never did any of the children there any harm. Real life is competitive, the sports day just gives us all a glimpse of what is to come.
June Young, England

During my childhood, I experienced many a social and emotional downer when my father volunteered to coach my local soft pitch team. He would take me aside, separate of the rest of the team, asking me "what is your problem?", "you can do better than that", and so on. Often, if I did anything wrong, I was left feeling ashamed, as if I were a complete disappointment - and I was never told "at least you tried your best". Parents can be harmful - and a definite embarrassment - especially if they do not know how to encourage a child's spirit. A lot of people seem to be overlooking this. If anything, it's better to let those who are specifically trained to be with children to handle it - unlike an unfortunately large amount of parents out there, they know what they are doing.
Val Hill, United States

I truly hated all sport and sports days at school to the extent that I was physically sick before lessons
Michele, UK
Why not let the pupils choose what they would like to do? Those with an interest and / or talent in traditional competitive sport could pursue this. Others could take part in other, non competitive, physical activities. I truly hated all sport and sports days at school to the extent that I was physically sick before lessons. Needless to say, I was 'hopeless' and always the last to be chosen for teams. This did have a deep negative effect on my self confidence. It had nothing to do with winning or losing, just very poor self esteem. By encouraging children to make choices about which physical activities they wish to partake in, can only have a positive effect. After all, if you can enjoy something, you will do it better and for longer. Now this will have a positive effect on our sporting prowess.
Michele, UK

During a school related Sports Day, the emphasis should be on joining in and participation. Games can be devised so that ALL participants are rewarded. Awards such as ribbons and buttons can be given out - these can be colour coded and worded with positive affirmations for the participants. If parents are asked to help with the creation of these awards, they will become more fully aware of the tenor of the day - enjoyment. Parents might be asked to hand out awards as well. How do you measure the success of any Sports Day? Well, you get a positive response to the question: "Did you have fun?"
Patra, Alberta, Canada

It was never a practice here to have parents watch sports day, for which I am grateful. I suggest that parents only be permitted to attend if the day is enhanced by requiring the teachers to compete as well, so students and parents all may hector the losers.
Mike Stuart, Canada

Unfortunately we do not live in a world where everyone cooperates with each other
Mark Clare, UK
The world is a competitive place. If children do not learn to compete and handle winning and losing they will not be prepared for the harsh realities of life. Unfortunately we do not live in a world where everyone cooperates with each other.
Mark Clare, UK

Traditional sports days emphasise the difference between those who are good and bad at sports in a very visible way. If a teacher picked out a bright pupil and a low achieving pupil in front of the whole class and said, "You're good," and "You're useless," that would be seen as totally unacceptable. Yet that's how it can feel in a sports day because everybody can see how bad you are.
Sarah, UK

For my son and I, sports day is a torment to be endured, and we are relieved when it is "rained off". I would be happy for it to be entirely non-competitive.
Janice, England

This isn't a new idea. My last primary school sports day was a very similar thing where we were placed in teams containing a pupil from every year group. We did a number of activities and were given points based on how well we performed them. The best performing team was given a prize. I remember it as a really fun day (despite it being 10 years ago) where everyone took part and older kids encouraged the younger ones.
Clare, UK

Will all those good at maths be told to stop achieving as they're affecting the children around them? Everybody is good at some things and bad at others. You can't dumb down certain lessons and activities, certainly not physical education as children already do too little exercise.
Phil, England

I was convinced I would be useless
Mich, UK
Actually, I agree with this teacher. Although I was not "scarred for life" by sports days, my lack of sporting ability caused me to dread that day, as I always came last. Especially as a peer conscious child, this was always humiliating and hurtful. I avoided any kind of physical activity, as I was convinced I would be useless and humiliated. I only began to enjoy sports at college, where it was much more about taking part and playing as a team, than winning as an individual. I am very glad that I had this opportunity to love sport again, as I would otherwise have been in a very unhealthy sedentary way of life.
Mich, UK

Is it any wonder that we are failing miserably at international sports? Some children excel in academia and some at sports. This does not give the sporty children a chance to shine.
Benita Crawley, England

My son's primary school had non-competitive sports days until quite recently, they were a complete farce. The trouble is in life we never all hold hands and step over the finish line together.
David, UK

Many children hate sports, so there is scope to include more non-competitive activities so they can join in the fun of a sports day. As to banning parents - being embarrassed by one's parents is a fundamental part of growing up but most children want their parents to watch them performing, it's watching Mum run in the egg and spoon race which is so embarrassing.
Christine Bolam, England

I recall inter-school football matches at my son's primary school where some parents (male and female) behaved little better than loud-mouthed hooligans and had to be asked to refrain from using foul language in front of the children.
Saskia Andrews, England

This is turning us into comfort-saturated surrender monkeys
Russell Long, UK
Children have to learn that you win some, and you lose some. How are future generations going to grow up as normal, balanced people if they are shielded from defeat? If anything, children should have a harder time than they do at present, because this constant coddling is turning us into comfort-saturated surrender monkeys.
Russell Long, UK

The traditional school sports day can be adapted to introduce other activities that involve all the children in some form of team exercise. This will ensure the child who is not particularly fast or skilled at a sport can feel some form of achievement in contributing to a team exercise, rather than standing on the side-line. The type of child who is always the last one to be picked for a team or not at all.
Iain Johnston, UK

Quote: "You have to learn about the real world while you are at school". True, but sadly many teachers go from school to university to teaching and don't seem to realise this truth. Maybe real world experience is something we should rely on teaching assistants to bring into schools?
Andy, UK

The media constantly blames parents for lack of discipline and involvement in children's lives and now we have a head teacher who dictates that parents are an unwelcome influence.
Donna, Scotland

Parents who fell strongly should have the school re-format academic lessons so that everyone passes the tests. Some children run faster than others, some can read better, some are better at maths. If we are not aware of our relative position in these areas, how can we strive to improve?
Chris Jones-Gill, UK

The BBC's John Sudworth
"Parents say they are deeply disappointed"

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01 Apr 03  |  Education

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