Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Oh-oh, here comes sports day.

Rarely suits foster children, for lots of reasons.

First up; children who are taken into care are rarely sporty. Okay there are a few headliners who end up as footballers, but they're the exception.

The foster boys you get might sometimes say they support Man U, but they've never been to a game, although their 'dad' is a regular, even goes to the away games where "..people sometimes pick fights with him". The best they may have had is the occasional kick-about in the back garden, if there is one.

Looked after children, especially those who have recently been taken into care are often less than 100% fit.

The first time I attended a Blue Sky get-together for fostering families I couldn't help but notice nearly 50% of the children were wearing spectacles. That fact was in part due to the requirement for eye tests for looked after children, but was also a clear indication of lack of wellness.

Before coming into care children have suffered emotionally and physically; we've all had malnourished and over-nourished (wrong type of nourishment. We've had anxious and withdrawn. We've seen shortfalls in basic balance and co-ordination. Lack of self-esteem.

And along comes good old sports day, and our foster children are up against the strapping clear-eyed middle-class boys and girls whose parents have had them enrolled for tennis and football, kung fu and ballet from before they could walk.

I've talked to head teachers about sports day and they say they would have a problem with parents, the ones who send their children to tennis and ballet.  I've talked to parents at sports day, here's a couple of quotes that stick in my mind;

"They have to learn to lose." As though foster children don't know about losing, they could do losing as their specialist subject on Mastermind. 

"My husband is ultra-competitive"

I asked the woman what her husband did for a job, I won't tell you the answer, but believe me, if that's the best the ultra-competitive can do in life no wonder they look to their children for their triumphs.

Half the 'sports' are irrelevant. I've spent enough of my days playing with children in parks to know that never, ever, not once in the history of mankind, nor ever in humanity's future, even if we are here for a million million years will any child anywhere on planet earth ask mummy and daddy if they can borrow a flipping egg and spoon or a sack and play at races.

I've said to heads; "If it works, a public parade of children showing who's best and who's worst at something, let's do it for your staff, let's parade your teachers from most successful to the worst, line them up in order in front of all the school and the parents".

It's not as though school's teach the pursuit they publicly test the child on. They don't teach running. Running happens when they play games, but competitive sprinting involves techniques, running on the balls of the feet, co-ordinating arm movements, getting a stride pattern which suits the child's physique. 

The head's final riposte, when I've exhausted myself on behalf of my looked-afters is that it's just a bit of fun and it doesn't really matter. 

Everything matters, every child's every experience matters.

Every sports day I've attended there is one person having the most fun; the teacher who gets to be the announcer. Usually the head.


  1. We haven’t shared your experiences, but I can certainly see how hard those days must be for looked afters.

    Drama-Queen’s secondary school has a sports day, it’s a voluntary thing and once upon a time most kids took part. This year, it was probably about 25% who actually participated, and most of those did just one event. The old and “naughty” kids tend to bunk off for the day while the rest sit in the stands and watch – while gorging on sweets, crisps and fizzy pop. I can’t think of anything less healthy.

    The event costs several thousand pounds (rumours between £5k-£10K) for the stadium hire, coaches for the kids, equipment hire, packed lunches for the kids who get free dinners (how to make them feel extra special). I’m going to be having a word at the next Parents forum, I doubt I’ll be listened to – the teachers seem to love it as its done by 2pm and they get an early finish. No class to prepare or homework to mark either.

    And don’t get me started on the schools finishing lessons or cancelling post school clubs so “the kids” can watch the football!

  2. Blimey, that's show stopping revelations about Drama-Queen's sports day. I do wonder about the whole "tradition' thing in education. The world has moved forward, and mostly in good ways, yet so many schools still have 1950s practices, in particular a drive to de-individualise kids or to put it another way, to earmark those with individual needs as irksome.