Lesson 94 The Pop-up Sports Day

Lesson 94 on Improvisation and inspiration


It was the Tuesday after Ofsted, and already people had run out of steam.  Nobody could work up any enthusiasm for work and there were still almost five weeks till the Summer holidays.

Mrs Head saved the day.  She came flying into the staffroom at morning break.

“Sports day!” she announced dramatically.  “Thursday!”

There hadn’t been any chance to even consider a sports day while the school was focused on Ofsted, but now it seemed like a good excuse for some fun.

“It’s not long to get organised,” mused Miss Senior thoughtfully.

“The weather forecast’s good!” said Mrs Head.  That settled it.

Everybody was energised. The school could concentrate its efforts on something nice for a change.

“Invitations!” Mrs BottomJuniors had a stroke of inspiration. “I’ll get my lot to make invitations to take home!”

“Why just your lot?” chipped in Miss Maverick. “I think everyone deserves a Sports Day invitation!”

“And we need posters for the doors and the gate,” said Miss ClassTeacher

“And a timetable for the events!”

“And somebody to go to Macro for the refreshments and prizes!”

“And heats on Wednesday afternoon!”

“And practice runs this afternoon!”

This whirl of activities took care of the rest of Tuesday and most of Wednesday. Thursday morning was occupied in getting the field, the equipment and the seating for the spectators ready.  Chairs and benches had to be carried out to the field. Skipping ropes and balls had to be assembled and counted.  An air of purpose and anticipation permeated the whole school.

The previous year’s Sports Day had been rained off and the year before there had been an unfortunate incident when some older siblings smuggled in cans of lager. This year everything was looking good. The weather was fine, only younger siblings had been invited and jugs of soft drinks were to be provided.

At one o’clock the invited family members began to turn up, the pupils were assembled and settled in their places. Mrs Head made the official speech of welcome and the sports began. 

I can’t remember all the individual events, but an awful lot of people seemed to win prizes. There was a great deal of cheering and excited jumping up and down.  Best of all, everybody could just be themselves and enjoy the day.

In the last race there was a collision between two of the leaders and one tripped, collapsing in a heap. His Mam, who had been cheering him on, saved the day by running onto the track in her stilettos, scooping him up and carrying him laughing to the finishing line as everybody whooped and whistled encouragement.

She got a prize as well.

It might not have ticked any Ofsted boxes, but, as far as all the participants were concerned, Sports Day was an unqualified excellent!

Lesson 93 Party! Party! Party!

Lesson 93 on The subtle art of point-scoring


Ofsted inspections in the early days were such a major event in the life of the school that their successful conclusion had to be ritually marked by the post-Ofsted celebration.

There was a considerable amount of one-up-manship between schools as to what form this took.  Visiting heads who came to offer advice and support based on their own recent inspection always finished off their feedback with the same question.

” And where are you going for the party?”.

“Oh we’ve a few options in mind, but we’re not rushing into anything.  We’ll see how things go,” Mrs Head would reply airily.

“Oh, but you’ll need to get booked up!  All the best places are booked up months ahead.  We had ours booked before Christmas!” (This was a two fold barb, demonstrating just how certain they were of a good result and also the exclusiveness of their celebration venue.)

“We went to that new club on the Quayside. Its got a marvellous grill!  We couldn’t fault it, but of course it’s not cheap.” (Neatly insinuating that it would therefore be out of our league.)

So the post-Ofsted celebration had to meet two objectives. It had to be something that we could all enjoy and afford, but it also had to demonstrate to the other schools that we could be as classy as anybody else. The honour of the school demanded it. 

Every week news would come in of some other school.

“Braetop went to the VIP suite at the stadium.  They said the food was wonderful, but the service was a bit of a disappointment.”

“You’ll never believe where Rivermouth went! They had a weekend in Dublin!  Flew from Teeside on Friday night!”

The Golfside Country Club was favoured by at least two more.

Each new revelation was followed by analysis and discussion.  The stadium was too common, even the VIP suite. Dublin was over the top and ostentatious.  The Golfside Country Club was too snobby.

In the end there was consensus.  The Country Hotel and Spa hit just the right note. It wasn’t too far, it was expensive, but offered good discount weekend offers for groups. It allowed everyone to get dressed up, so we could all show off the photographs. 

Most important of all, it would put Mrs Visiting-Head’s nose well out of joint, because we’d be staying overnight in the Courtyard suites, which everyone knew beat minibuses home from the Quayside into a cocked hat!