24 June 2014

What are your memories of sport at school? Was it the buzz of adrenaline in the final minutes of a football game when just one goal stood between your team and victory? Was it the sweaty palms on a rounders bat, waiting to take a swing? Maybe you didn’t enjoy sports very much after too many dips into the lost and found clothes box when you’d forgotten your kit. Either way, I’m willing to bet you learnt something from the experience.

sportsdayPersonally, I think competitive sport should be an integral part of education. Put at the heart of schools, it encourages teamwork and camaraderie, helps young people to learn how to handle failure and enables those who aren’t as academically gifted something to excel at. Not to mention the health benefits! So it was interesting to read an article recently that looked at the availability of sports in both state and private schools.

The article quoted Ofsted’s chief inspector who had compiled a report on the matter, coming to the conclusion that a number of the state schools had sport as an optional extra rather than an integral part of the experience. That being said, the state schools that did value and encourage competitive sport saw results to match in the classroom. It goes to show the positive impact that exercise has on learning and performance.

In my opinion, if some of our schools aren’t receiving enough funding or support to bring competitive sport into the fabric of their culture then something is wrong. With so much focus going on passing exams, there has to be an outlet for children. For me, rugby was a big part of my experience growing up, and memories I have from out on the field will stay with me forever. I’d also say that it doesn’t help children on sports days when they’re told, “there are no winners or losers.” Where does that leave the kids who aren’t as confident in the classroom?

At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter where you’re educated; sport should be part of it. Mo Farah’s old PE teacher, who taught at a community college, was quoted as saying that sport helped the young athlete to grow and develop as a person. And I think he put it perfectly when he said that, “every child should have the right to be in a position where they could become a sporting hero.” Are you a parent, a teacher or a student? What do you think?

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