The one thing I don’t miss from my children’s schooldays is the dreaded sports day. It was almost always one of the worst days of the year. At one school the event was competitive in every sense – from the parents’ picnics to the 100 metre sprint. The same children won everything year after year while the less sporty boys and girls were consigned to a far corner of the athletics track doing supposedly “fun” things like throwing hoops and hopping, skipping and jumping. My exuberant son didn’t think they were fun at all.
At his secondary school, I’m glad to say, the whole thing was far more relaxed. Everyone took part in three events, there were no picnics and In between races, the children wandered around in the sunshine. Everyone got a Zoom ice lolly for their efforts and instead of feeling like an abject failure by the end of the afternoon my son was on top of the world.
Some critics sneer at the “all shall have prizes” approach of some schools – but I reckon that when you're only 11 sports day should be wall-to-wall fun.
Mind you, the most competitive participants at the sports days I went to were the parents. My daughter’s first school, a tiny primary in the wilds of North Yorkshire, always held a mothers’ race.
A lovely mum who was incredibly laid-back the rest of the year was so determined to win that as soon as the whistle went she developed a competitive instinct Paula Radcliffe would be proud of. One year she came a cropper when she tripped halfway down the school field, tore a ligament and had to be carted off in an ambulance. The children – from reception right through to year 6 – were utterly gripped. It was the most dramatic finish to a sports day they’d ever seen.
PS. I’m thrilled to hear that one of my favourite books, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, is being filmed. It’s being directed by Kevin Macdonald (of The Last King of Scotland fame) and stars Saoirse Ronan (above) as Daisy, the teenage New Yorker sent to England to stay with her cousins. It's due out in 2013 and I'm certain it will be a must-see...