Why we have a non-competitive approach to PE; Carnivals and other sporting events.

The Armidale Waldorf School offers a holistic approach to education based on what is developmentally appropriate for each child. In the same way that we do not have standardised testing and competition in the class room, our games and sporting events are based on cooperation, rather than winning.

Lucy Clark (competition in the class room) wrote; The more we focus on academic outcomes and test results, the more the outcome becomes the goal, rather than a good education being the goal. This is true for all education, including physical education. By removing competition, we are alleviating the pressure to perform; the fear of failing; and allowing the children to enjoy the activity. Moving the focus from winning, to developing and improving physical ability.

When a child enjoys learning, they are much more open to trying new and increasing more challenging things, all the while developing their motor skills, spatial awareness, balance, coordination and fitness. As the child grows and improves in this nurturing and cooperative environment, so too does their confidence and self-worth.

Competition is gradually introduced in later years, with the first emphasis being more inwardly focused; competing against ones-self to improve or achieve goals. Students relish in each others success; supporting our holistic education by improving their social, emotional, and empathic development as they support and encourage each other.

Our primary and high school students often come together for these events, giving students the opportunity to learn from, imitate and support each other, and eventually freely compete against themselves or each other.

Friday Games Every Friday afternoon the primary students from class 1 to 6 come together to play games such as Four Post, Shark Bait and Storm the Castle. All students need to cooperate if the game is to be a success and so older students teach and help the younger students how to best play the games, while the younger students look-up to, and imitate the skills of the older students.

Swimming Carnival During term 1, classes 1 to 8 participate in a swimming carnival. Only Class 3 and upward join the swimming races while Class 1/2 play organised games and swim with their teacher and helpers. They also watch the older students and teachers in the big pool, preparing them for the time when they too will be developmentally ready to join the races.

Students in classes 3 to 8 are encouraged but never pressured to join in the many fun swims on offer in the bigger pool. The races vary in length and skill so that every child has the opportunity to participate; with the emphasis on having a go, trying your best and completing.

Even if your child does not participate in the races, there is still plenty of time for supporting their friends, which will have the effect of building confidence for a nervous child. Of course, the day also offers ample free-swimming time and socialising with older and younger peers.

Cross Country Our Cross Country is held at the end of term 2 in the Pine Forest. Courses varying in length and difficulty are set and marked out by the Class 7/8 students the day before. Students from classes 1 to 8 are free to choose the course or courses they wish. Some students like to challenge themselves and/or each other by running as many courses as possible, others simple marauder around only one course.

Again, there is no acknowledgement of winners or losers; just the simple inward joy of spending a lovely morning outside with your friends, knowing you tried your best, or improved on last years efforts.

Students who cannot walk even the shortest course for whatever reason are given important jobs, such as, being a course director, or being positioned at a first aid station this allows them to participate in the day in a worthwhile way that builds their confidence. Sometimes a child simply needs to watch an event such as Cross Country before they feel confident enough to join in.

Athletic Carnival We hold our athletics carnival at Charleston Willows on the last day of term 3. Classes 1 to 8 come together to participate in both traditional athletic events, such as high jump and the 50m run, as well as fun events like the sack race and wheelbarrow race.

Students are encouraged to join in the fun by entering an event of their choice, or marking the finishing line, or simply supporting and cheering for their peers. Students who lack the confidence to enter an event alone are encouraged to join in the novelty events with their friends, such as the 3-legged race or wheelbarrow race, where they can be supported by a more confident peer.

Once again, the focus is not on winning an event, but rather on the enjoyment of sharing the day together and developing new skills and confidence. Students and teachers celebrate effort, participation, and challenging ones-self.

Parents are welcome to join the school community at any of our carnivals, and this could be a way of encouraging your child to feel more relaxed about attending. Allowing your child to participate in these carnivals and events, is giving them the gift of a supportive community that will allow them to grow and develop into confident well-rounded students. A student who feels supported may one day, for example, be brave enough to jump into the deep end of the pool for the first time and swim to the other side. Having just achieved such an amazing physical feat, that same child may then transfer that confidence to their academic work and finally understand division, or suddenly begin to read.

We hope that you will support our physical education program with a new understanding that competition is not an inevitable part of human nature and that It does not motivate us to do our best (Alfie Kohn- The case against competition).