Senior Head's Blog: The Positive Challenge of Sport

Although Felsted has a very long history (459 years and counting), the real development of the school came in the second half of the 19th century, with the building of the main school building in the 1860s and the expansion of the school.  Felsted was one of many schools that were part of the Victorian expansion in education, with the Headmaster of Rugby, Dr Arnold, driving education based on these three principles: "First religious and moral principle, second gentlemanly conduct, third academic ability".  With as many as twenty three of his 'assistant masters' going off to become Headmasters in their own right, it is hardly surprising that Arnold is seen as one of the most influential figures in public school (and independent school) education.

When the HMC (now the Heads' Conference) was founded in 1869, Felsted was one of twelve schools present, represented by the Head at the time, Rev'd W. S. Grignon (of Grignon Hall fame).  The rapid growth of the sector was driven by a belief in what was often called 'muscular christianity' that saw religion and sport at the very heart of most schools' daily practice.  Those who study Physical Education will be familiar with the significant role that the Public Schools played in the promotion of team sports in the second half of the 19th century, and without the influence of the schools then, we would almost certainly not have Rugby Football or any of the other team sports played today, or at least not in the form that we understand them.

So why the history lesson?  Sport has remained a crucial part of education within the independent sector, and has been central to the experience of generations of Felstedians.  With the changing societal expectations, this has included a rapid rise in status for girls' sports, so that last Saturday, on the Front, we could enjoy the girls' 1st XI cricket team defeating Cambridge University.  We have also seen an expansion in options available for young people, and a focus on sport for all, recognising the benefits that sport offers in terms of health (physical and mental) as well as the important role that it can play in developing teamwork, communication, resilience and much more besides.  It is also a useful example for how success is achieved - hard work and commitment bring results (and their absence the opposite), which is a mindset that can usefully be transferred to the classroom as well.

One of the things that was lost during some of the two years of pandemic was the opportunity to enjoy competitive sport.  This was felt very keenly at school, and it appears to have had some longer term impact as well.  Sport can be challenging - you will lose sometimes and most of us don't like that!  You will find people who are better than you, and again most of us do not like that.  It can take time, especially when having to travel to away matches and that can be disruptive to other demands.  However, it can also bring great memories, shared experiences and personal challenge.  Felsted has long had a reputation for 'punching above its weight' in sport, enjoying success regionally and nationally.  This is something of which we are very proud as a community, and something that we want to maintain.  This requires high levels of commitment from pupils, coaches and indeed parents, but the benefits are great.  Taking pride in 'pulling on the jersey', competing to the very best of one's ability, and whether winning or losing, knowing that you have done all that you can for your team mates all come together to create a very powerful feeling.

Enjoy the Coronation this weekend and the very best to those who are already in the midst of their exams.

Chris Townsend,
Head, Felsted School