Ministers now make speeches in favour of competition, but it is clear that anti-competitive attitudes are still deeply rooted in many parts of the education system. Mike Selvey described his daughter's experience of the Milton Keynes Primary Schools Athletics Championships in today's Guardian:
At the close of her 800m race, Hannah was leading so far in front that the runner in second place had not yet rounded the crest of the bend and she was within 100m or so of lapping the back marker.
This race was a qualifier, one of two to decide the 800m finalists for the Milton Keynes Primary Schools Athletics Championships. At the start of the following week, her sports teacher rather sheepishly took Hannah to one side and told her that, unfortunately, she had not qualified for the final. Hannah was stunned, absolutely flattened. She had won her heat at a puffless canter.
This was not an isolated anomaly. Her friend won a very competitive 200m race, but she too failed to qualify, as did two of the four relay teams entered by the school, despite a clean sweep. Throwers conceded places to those who qualified behind them. Runners saw stragglers' names in the finals list.