Sports Day Soldiers On, Despite the Hurdles

By Sam Kail-Dyke – Wessex Learning Trust

For many, sports day is a highlight of the school calendar –
dressed up in your house colours; parents watching on the side-lines; cheering
on your friends in the egg and spoon race. It’s a scene repeated up and down
the country every year and one which you could be forgiven for taking for
granted. Unfortunately however, this year there was to be no sack race or relay,
as with schools split into bubbles and many children working from home sports
day seemed like yet another event which would be halted by Coronavirus.

…that was until some ingenious staff at the Wessex Learning Trust
thought up a way to keep this grand tradition alive, despite the lockdown.

The sporting crusade was led in part by PE teacher at Wedmore, Weare and Cheddar First schools: Matt Coggins. Mr. Coggins confesses that his favourite day of the year is sports day, so when he realised it looked to be off the cards he was determined to do something to get the children out and running around regardless. This led to a lot of graft and hard work which resulted in a ‘Virtual Sports Day’ program that was used by not only teachers in our Trust, but also in scores of other schools throughout the UK.

The program consisted of five events, completed over five
days, using little to no equipment and which could be done at home or at
school. This included a 30 second sprint, a ‘long distance’ 3 minute run, speed
bounce, triple jump, and target throw. Each day the children would complete
their event and submit their result to their teacher, who would in-turn collate
them for the school. This was repeated until on the last day (with the help of
some excel formulae) a results table could be drawn, and medals awarded.

The winners were not however just those who ran the fastest,
there were also prizes available to those individual and classes who had the
greatest levels of participation.

It’s evident from the photos sent in by parents, and the huge smiles on children’s faces, that the sports day – even in this virtual form – was a hit! We are certainly very proud that our learners were still able to take part and engage in the healthy competition that the races always provide. We also hope that it also gave our children a sense of some normality and kept them in contact with their peers, even at this strange time when we are all having to keep apart.

At Axbridge similar events were staged for children at home and in school, with staff uploading ‘how-to’ videos each morning to guide children through the activities. After taking part they would fill in a record sheet and send it to their teacher so as they could receive a certificate. Axbridge’s events included some of the more traditional sports day fixtures, such as the egg and spoon race, which gave the children an immense feeling of nostalgia, and made them feel like they really were in school, having a sports day.

Chief Executive, Gavin Ball, said of the virtual sports days:

“I am delighted to see that our learners were able to take part in sports days across our schools this term, despite the lockdown. These events are important parts of every child’s upbringing and shape our experiences and memories of school. I hope that everyone enjoyed getting involved and taking part, and that it has got everyone excited for coming back to school in September”

Gavin Ball, Chief Executive

In addition to the competition between classes and within schools; there was one other score which had to be settled … that of Wedmore VS Cheddar. It is a long-standing tradition for these two schools to go head to head in the summer – traditionally in a game of Football – to compete for pride and a year of bragging rights. Regrettably once again this couldn’t take place in its normal form this year, however with the magic of a spreadsheet, Mr. Coggins was able to pit the two schools up against one another through their participation in sports day. With the stakes raised, everyone was keen to do their bit to make their school victorious; with even Mr and Mrs Wookey (teacher and headteacher at Wedmore and Cheddar respectively) joining in to earn point for their school. It was a close-run contest, but in the end it was Cheddar who narrowly came out victorious!

Nevertheless, as we always say at this time of year, regardless of whether we’re running our races at home or at school, it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts. And at present, with our schools split into bubbles and children socially distanced, it seems like this mantra is more pertinent than ever.

“I enjoyed the egg and spoon race the most because I did the challenge in my garden and my Mum cheered me on like it was Sports Day and she can’t normally come, so it was special”

A Year 4 Pupil at Axbridge First School