The inclusion of sports on a larger scale into the school calendar is a terrific way for children to imbibe life skills, say parents and teachers
While few parents will consider academic success unimportant, it appears many schools are now increasingly focusing on integrating a culture of sport into their ethos and curriculum, with the aim of producing confident, well-rounded individuals robustly prepared for life in the real world. So, do schools and parents in the UAE agree that sport is a key element of this preparation? It’s a resounding ‘yes’.
Mike Wilson, incoming head at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, says there are myriad reasons why sports should be an integral part of a school’s culture and ethos, starting with learning all-important life skills. “Sure, schools need to get results, but the reality is GCSEs and A-levels are simply a measure of a student’s ability to remember,” he says. “At Cranleigh, our attitude is that we don’t care where a child learns the life skills they need — in a classroom, on a stage, on a playing field — as long as they learn them.”
Such life skills include operating as part of a team, problem-solving, thinking outside the box, learning to deal with pressure, getting out of a sticky situation and coming out on top. “Wherever they’re learned, these skills are entirely transferable to everyday life and totally valuable,” Wilson says.
Agrees British expat Emma Rymer, 46, who deliberately looked for a school with a strong sporting ethos to give her eight-year-old son Billy’s boundless energy an outlet and channel it in a positive way, as well as give him an all-round
To us, sport teaches children important life skills including teamwork, team spirit, discipline and an understanding of healthy competition,” says Rymer. “Young children can often be all about themselves, especially if they’re an only child as Billy is, and it was important for us he learned to be a part of a team and understand when he’s playing in a team, his role is helping his team and he is not the team itself.”
Rymer says having sport as an integral part of Billy’s education has had a positive effect on the child. “He’s had the opportunity to be involved in a number of different sports and now represents the school at swimming, rugby and football, and outside school his involvement in sports has given him great bonding opportunities with his father.”
Wilson stresses learning teamwork is one of the most important benefits of a robust sporting culture in education. “As a team, it’s vital to learn how to collectively experience and appreciate the highs, but still manage the lows.”