Should Red Bull be banned at school sports days?

It was my school’s sports day today. For me, the weather was perfect; cool, cloudy and a bit rainy. Contrary to some of the stereotypes you read in the press, my state school’s sports day is not optional and not everyone gets a prize. The Daily Mail reported yesterday about a school where pupils are told that they don’t have to take part if they don’t want to — in my experience this is pretty rare — as are “non-competitive” sports’ days.

No, at my school, things are very competitive. So much so that we had a problem with pupils imbibing too much Red Bull in a bid to boost their performance. I don’t think this is cheating exactly but it does beg the question: should all caffeine be banned at school sports’ days? It was a bit worrying because some kids looked like they were mainlining the stuff to somewhat comic effect: one kid’s jogging up and down on the spot looked like Bugs Bunny on speed!

The Head of PE had to intervene and ban the drink completely. I think next year, there will be a blanket ban. We were all caught a bit on the hop with this one because it’s never happened before.

Anyway, the whole event was very good-spirited in the end, with the kids cheering both the winners and the losers. One sixth former gallantly tagged alongside a Year 7 pupil who was desperately struggling to finish the 1500 metres  — she was way, way behind everyone else. As they crossed the finishing line, they got the biggest cheer of the day. It’s not the winning that matters, but the taking part — minus Red Bull.


Published by: @wonderfrancis

Francis Gilbert is a Lecturer in Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, teaching on the PGCE Secondary English programme. He also teaches the Creative Writing module on the MA in Children’s Literature, which is run by Maggie Pitfield and Professor Michael Rosen. Previously, he worked for a quarter of a century in various English state schools teaching English and Media Studies to 11-18 year olds. He has, at times, moonlighted as a journalist, novelist and social commentator. He is the author of ‘Teacher On The Run’, ‘Yob Nation’, ‘Parent Power’, ‘Working The System -- How To Get The Very Best State Education for Your Child’, and a novel about school, ‘The Last Day Of Term’. His first book, ‘I'm A Teacher, Get Me Out Of Here’ was a big hit, becoming a bestseller and being serialised on Radio 4. In his role as an English teacher, he has taught many classic texts over the years and has developed a great many resources to assist readers with understanding, appreciating and responding to them both analytically and creatively. This led him to set up his own small publishing company FGI Publishing ( which has published his study guides as well as a number of books by other authors, including Roger Titcombe’s ‘Learning Matters’ and anthology of creative writing 'The Gold Room'. He is the co-founder, with Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar, of The Local Schools Network,, a blog that celebrates non-selective state schools, and has his own website, He has appeared numerous times on radio and TV, including Newsnight, the Today Programme, Woman’s Hour and the Russell Brand Show. In June 2015, he was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing and Education by Goldsmiths.

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