A couple of thoughts about something that comes up every summer term, and it often hits fostering quite hard: school sports day.
Blue Sky put on numerous events for their children during the school summer holidays and when they do sportyness, it's nicely done.
For me, schools could learn from Blue Sky. Schools get it wrong generally, big time.
Schools are big on the competitiveness, so the big thing is to get WINNERS.
(Weak voice); 'Hooray...'
The losers are the children who have to demonstrate in front of their entire school and a few hundered parents just how rubbish they are. They are the LOSERS. Official.
And where do the children in care tend to come in these races? In my experience, last or near last.
Why? Dunno. Maybe their life experiences to date have truncated their development or maybe they've got bigger things on their mind.
They often come home in a fume and we have to sort it out.
I've been told by schools that Sports Day is an opportunity for the children who don't shine at anything else to have their moment. It's a rubbish argument, based on the assumotion that unacademic children are better at sport than bright pupils. Who, it seems, need taking down a peg or two.
What about the foster chidren whose private lives are in turmoil, who can't keep up with lessons and who then have to trail in last in front of everybody, with the Head teacher doing their Des Lynam commentaries so there's no hiding place?
If it's such a good day out to have a school's physically vulnerable children identified as failures in front of a crowd why don't schools do the same with Spelling or Maths or Art? Why not? They could invite all the parents and get every class into a crowd then line up the kids in order of who can and can't read and write and parade them in front of pupils and parents and announce on the loudspeaker "Well done the clever clogs! And a round of applause for the stragglers."
Parents could bring a picnic and invite gran along. What fun!
No-one would do that with acadaemia. But that's what they do with sports day.
And over the line the losers fall, burning with embarrasment and anger.
To be harsh, the problem is partly that most people involved in Primary Education are unsporty, maybe even resentful of the whole sports thing. They block it out, hope it's an irrelevance. Maybe they were humiliated themselves.
At Secondary level most of the people involved in school sports have thick skins. I'm told that at teacher training the PE students are nicknamed 'Woodentops'.
Then there's the burden of one of Britain's greatest problem. Precedent. People think that they have to do what has always been done. And Sports Day has been with us since Victorian times.
And those Victorians, they were famous for their handling of children weren't they?
Boringly I feel obliged to state the obvious: some children gain something from sports day, some teachers input care and kindness. Every ten years or so a fostered child becomes a fleetingly famous athlete or footballer and so everyone assumes that sport serves foster children well.
Infuriatingly though, the majority of parents tell me the same thing when sports day comes up in the conversation:
"We have to watch these lefties with their non-competitive sports. Children have to learn how to lose".
They say that to me.
"Children have to learn how to lose".
Oh, I just smile and say "Mmmmm"
Foster Carers, remember; you're a pro. Ordinary parents are amatuers.