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Are you ready for sports day?

With schools across the country preparing for sports day, Marianne Pope looks at some of the questions educators may be grappling with

Posted by Hannah Vickers | July 03, 2017 | Sports & Leisure

Whether it is a low-key affair with traditional events, a mini-Olympics, or a tug of war and egg-and-spoon-filled occasion, sports day can be a fantastic opportunity to build school morale and camaraderie between pupils, staff and parents. 

However, in the face of the ever-unpredictable British summertime and with a number of health and safety implications to consider, organising a sports day can also bring a host of challenges. So what are some of the most common questions from school leaders on this topic? 

From first aid provision to handling a heatwave, here are five tips to help you prepare for your sports day:

Too hot for sport?

As we all know, British weather means that in any planning we have to expect the unexpected. Having already been lucky with a spell of hot weather, there’s a slim chance that your sports day may coincide with another heatwave, but if the sun does come out, there are a few safety issues to consider.

There aren’t any national guidelines for schools on maximum or minimum temperatures for holding sporting activities outdoors. However, it is recommended that you carry out a risk assessment and put in place control measures to ensure pupils’ safety. For hot conditions, measures might include:

  • Providing shade and water
  • Making sure pupils put sun protection cream on
  • Ensuring pupils wear appropriate clothing (hats and sunglasses, but also tops that cover their shoulders, for example)

Can boys and girls play contact sports together?

There is no legislation that says schools must prevent boys and girls from playing mixed-gender contact sports, but if you’re worried about allowing this, you could carry out a risk assessment.

Conversely, guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) explains that equality legislation permits single-sex sports in certain circumstances. For instance, for games or activities of a competitive nature, single-sex sports may be appropriate if “the physical strength, stamina or physique of the average woman (or girl) would put her at a disadvantage in competition with the average man (or boy)”.

This judgement must always take into account the particular group in question, so having separate sports for younger age groups may be less justifiable.

It’s also important to remember that if you provide a particular sporting opportunity for boys, for example, you would have to provide a comparable opportunity for girls too. 

Parent races – should parents sign disclaimers?

Some schools ask parents to sign health and safety disclaimers before participating in sports day races, or make announcements before races saying that parents take part at their own risk.  However, it is worth noting that disclaimers do not always guarantee freedom from liability. If you are particularly concerned about liability, it would be advisable to consult your school’s legal or insurance providers.

Can we insist that pupils remove their jewellery?

Yes, you can. When we contacted the DfE about this, a representative told us that schools may insist on pupils removing jewellery for PE lessons and school sports (or taping over it for safety reasons), but should outline their rules on this in a written policy.

A pupil who refuses to follow the school's policy, may be prevented from participating on health and safety grounds.

Our sports day is taking place during Ramadan – what should we consider? 

This year Ramadan fell between the 26th May – 24th June. For many schools, sports day will be held later in July but it is important to note that when the event does take place during Ramadan, the main risk to pupils who are fasting is dehydration. The Muslim Council of Britain suggests that the best mitigation is for these pupils to avoid activities that require physical exertion.

You might also like to consider:

  • Scheduling your school sports day so it falls before or after Ramadan
  • That fasting children may be feeling tired and be more at risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
  • Avoiding delay at the end of the day, as children will need to be at home straight after school to break their fast

Marianne Pope is a researcher at The Key, which provides impartial leadership and management support to almost half the schools in England

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