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Children should be taught how to 'lose graciously', says independent schools leader


Children should be taught how to “lose graciously” to prepare them for life after school, an independent schools leader said today.

Eddy Newton, president of the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools, said pupils should be shown the etiquette of shaking hands with their opponent after a game and telling them:  “Well done - you were better on the day.”

Speaking at his association’s annual conference in London, he added: “When you play sport it is one team against another - you have a 50 per cent chance of winning.  You’re going to spend a great deal of the time losing and you should learn how to lose graciously.

“You will have some children who will weep and wail but gradually learn that’s part of what life should be about.”

Preparing children to cope with failure was also a key skill to help them cope with the adult world as they faced interviews for universities or employment, he added.

“You should show the other side the etiquette of shaking hands and saying ‘well played - you were the better player’,” he said.  “It may sound old-fashioned but pupils should be taught this is what they should do after a sporting event.”

Mr Newton, headmaster of Chafyn Grove preparatory school in Salisbury, Wiltshire, added:  “You’re going to go on after school and be interviewed and not offered a job - you’re going to have to learn about how to cope with coming second.”

He said that parents should also be encouraged not to shout too vociferously on the touchline if they were watching their offspring play sport.

However, he added:  “If you’re a fast runner it is obvious you want to show you’re a fast runner.  We wouldn’t want to stop that. Children will race each other - we should just make them happier about the idea of running and losing.  We should be teaching them to resilience - to get up and start all over again - but it is important for a child to learn to look somebody in the eye, shake them by the hand and say ‘well done, you were better than me today’.”

Mr Newton’s comments came as it emerged fewer than one in four prep schools made their pupils sit the national curriculum (SATs) tests in English and maths for 11-year-olds.  Latest figures show only about 20 per cent do.

“They have mostly voted not to do so because too much time and emotional energy with these tests rather than developing a well-rounded education,” he said.

David Hanson, chief executive of IAPS, added that few parents paid attention to their schools’ position in league tables, trusting them to deliver an academic curriculum.  They wanted them to deliver a more rounded education.

In a statement at the conference, Mr Newton said prep schools did promote success in their pupils but understood they needed to learn how to cope with not winning.  “There are no cancelled sports days to protect children from a sense of failure, as it is normal you will not come out on top,” he added. “That is life and that is what our schools show our pupils - come back and have another go, with no shame in coming second.”

He also warned that schools would have to tackle the crisis of obesity with 20 per cent of 10-year-olds now classified in this category.

“Education has a key role to play in promoting a healthy lifestyle: balancing diet and exercise in order to keep our youngsters in good shape and preventing a terrible situation where a generation of people might die before their parents,” he added.

Prep schools tackled it by a “full blooded commitment to sport and exercise” with the vast majority offering games activities between four and five times a week and playing competitive sports”.