Friday afternoon was our annual Swimming Carnival, and by definition of carnival, that is what it was – a celebration the week before the beginning of Lent rather than a competition. There was friendly rivalry between the different fishy named teams but there was also plenty of encouragement, celebration, noise, grit and determination. There was no jeering but rather cheering as some courageous competitors made their last determined grasp for the finish line. Sheer resoluteness being their propulsion rather than style to make it down the interminably long thirty three metres of the Mansfield Pool.

The meaning of competition is the activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others. Competition provides the thrill and enjoyment in all sports, it teaches a lot about winning, losing and coping with disappointment. There is much to be learned by listening to the triumphant winners of a game but even more to be learned from noble losers – those who accept their loss with good grace and show appreciation for the achievements of their opponents.

In education, the competition should be different and the stakes higher- there should be no losers but rather students who had their natural curiosity cultivated and their capabilities maximised in order for them to reach their full potential as human beings. In mainstream education, the emphasis is constantly on the success of children in numeracy and literacy and the other subjects and the development of other intelligences are largely ignored in any assessment. In Steiner Education, the arts are highly valued, not just an adjunct to the curriculum for assisting in the development of all academic skills. They add balance, aesthetics and appreciation to the life of a child. The competition should be within the students, building self-esteem, taking on personal challenges and experiencing success.

If you haven’t seen it before, Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity –

Our Swim Programme is now over for the year. Our programme is more about teaching water safety skills to the students rather than stroke technique. It is so important in Australia, such a water sports-obsessed country, that every child can enjoy the water with confidence. If you are able to take your child to swimming lessons, their enjoyment and welfare will be improved in any body of water.

Thank you to the many parents who volunteered to assist with the swimming programme and the carnival. It certainly made the job of teachers easier and it enabled an enjoyable and successful experience for all. Well done to the parents who participated in the Parents/Students/Teachers race – better luck next year.

Fran Cummins