i Editor's Letter: Losing perspective on school sports

 

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The Independent Online

 

For an allegedly reserved nation we surprised ourselves with the passion the Games evoked in us. And for a supposedly level-headed race we are outdoing our tendency to bandwagon-jump by losing all perspective about school sports.

I was lucky. I was good at most sports – even those I didn't like. I cried aged 10 when I found out that the boys' grammar school I would go to was rugby-only, and shunned my beloved football. Hard to believe now, but I was decent enough back then that I actually had to feign not being good at some sports because I really didn't fancy being raked over at the bottom of a ruck, or running through the biting winds howling around our cross-country course at Croydon Aerodrome. I even got my poor Ma to tell the school I didn't want to play rugby. Fine, said my oh-so-understanding headteacher, there are many other schools in the area.

The memory plays tricks, but I think I did do two hours a day of sport in the end. Two hours of compulsory PE a week, plus the endless rugby, cross-country, basketball, cricket and athletics lunch-time and after-school training sessions. Not to mention every Saturday of my entire school life.

It was only after we had left that some of my friends told me – to my absolute shock – how much they had hated school, because of its absolute obsession with sport, and the way pupils were validated through it. Of course not all schools become a "sports academy" like mine did (whatever that means), but there has to be room for drama and art and technology … and academics obviously. At mine, sport came first.

And if you happen to like and be good at sports in an academic school, that's a problem too. The teachers will pounce on you for every sport, no matter how many lesson periods they eat up.

So, yes, I am all for more sport at school, but let's just start by saying that all schools should at least be able to offer the option. Our politicians need to stop the hypocritical selling-off of school playing fields, and give our children the chance to have, if not two hours of sport a day, at least two a week. And then, a drama and art class or three.

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