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A school sports day can be the pinnacle of the PE department’s year, a chance to show the rest of the school just what we do. Our sportiest and most able pupils thrive in the face of competition and the chance to be the best.

But for some pupils, sports day can be their worst nightmare. For others, it can be seen as a day off. In this article, we discuss strategies that could be utilised to engage more pupils in taking part in various aspects of the day.

Inclusive starting event

Our first suggestion is to include an event at the start of the day where ALL pupils are involved. We have seen this successfully piloted as a ‘Race for Life’ for the first hour of the day. All pupils meet at a designated start point and are tasked to complete as many laps as possible around the school field or school site. Every time they go past the start line, they earn a point for their mentor group via a raffle ticket collection system.

Engage pupils by creating a fun, carnival atmosphere, including playing music over a PA system and conducting pupil interviews, allowing them to wear (tasteful!) face paint or glitter to support their mentor group, and creating flags and banners as appropriate. You’ll be surprised how many pupils are willing to engage with a longer period of activity in these conditions.

Alternative roles during sports day

Our second suggestion to engage more pupils in the sports day is to offer alternative roles to pupils – such as a sports leader, a team organiser, or a photographer/videographer as part of a media team.

The sports leaders could help to score in certain events, which helps the day to run more efficiently, and the media team could help to capture candid footage and interviews of the day. Both of these roles also allow pupils the opportunity to explore and experience different careers in sports, which offers another added bonus of running the event and is sure to keep your careers lead happy.

Not only will this will allow pupils the opportunity to feel a part of the day, but if this idea is combined with our first suggestion, every pupil will have been active for at least some part of the day and engaged for all of it. 

Non-traditional events

Our final suggestion is to include alternative events to the traditional track and field offerings. Some ideas could include:

  • Seated basketball throw – it’s all about technique, and will allow your rugby, basketball and netball players to show off their skills.
  • Bean bag target throwing – a fun and inclusive event.
  • Speed bounce – a test of agility and speed. 
  • Football penalty kicks through a target. 
  • Timed netball shooting challenge – this will be exceptionally popular with girls who will feel confident that they can beat the boys.
  • Obstacle course, including fun challenges such as a cargo net scramble, flipping tyres, or trying to transport as much water over a course without spilling it as possible. 
  • Old school races – remember the sack race, or the egg and spoon? Your pupils probably will too! Let them embrace their inner primary school selves with the offer of some fun races.
  • Tug of war – if you haven’t got a rope, we suggest investing in one as our experience shows that this event is exceptionally popular with pupils, particularly if you offer the winning team the opportunity to take on an all-star staff team! 

These events could take place alongside the traditional events, and pupils may feel more encouraged to sign up for a wider combination of sporting activities, encouraging participation and performance, which is ultimately what sports day is all about. 

Sports day doesn’t just have to be a chance for the most able pupils to showcase their skills – it can be an inclusive, fun event for all pupils to celebrate their achievements in sport. Consider what would work for your school and pupils, and don’t be afraid to break away from the norm – any physical activity can be included in sports day! 

To find out how PE Office can help you create an effective coaching and skills teaching programme with expert lesson plans and schemes of work, contact us on 01909 776 900, send an email to or click here to book a demo.