Schools are banning parents from attending their children’s sports days, with councils accused of ignoring official guidance.

Some headteachers are axing sports days and end-of-term activities altogether, citing the national rise in Covid cases as well as concern that it would lead to staff having to isolate during the first 10 days of the summer holidays.

Comberton Village College in Cambridge told parents that all activities and the school sports day would be cancelled during the final week of term.

The school’s principal explained: “As we are seeing, Covid positive cases nationally and locally are rising rapidly and where they occur under current rules, all close contacts have to isolate for 10 days.

“I attended a briefing for Cambridgeshire secondary heads this morning where we were strongly advised by the LA [local authority] to not run any sports days or similar events this term.”

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Elsewhere, sports days are allowed to go ahead but with parents banned from attending. The head teacher of Woodbank Primary School in Bury, Greater Manchester, said she took the decision to bar families after receiving advice from the local authority.

The high rate of Covid cases in Bury combined with potentially having to send home bubbles and tell staff to isolate during the holidays meant that inviting parents was not worth the risk, she said. 

Essex County Council’s director of education and director of public health said they “fully support” head teachers who decide to cancel or “significantly amend” sports days and leavers’ assemblies.

Parents said it was “absolutely ridiculous” that they were being banned from attending sports days.

“The head has lost the plot,” one parent from Colchester, Essex, said. “There are a lot of staff at school who are paranoid about getting the virus even though they have been vaccinated – none of the staff want to have to isolate for the first 10 days of their holiday.”

Official guidance from the Department for Education has said that sports days can go ahead prior to July 19 with spectators, as long as social distancing is maintained. Spectators are allowed to gather in separate groups of up to 30, according to the advice.

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Sir Ian Botham, a former England cricketer, tweeted: “Couldn’t go to my grandchild’s sports day… but 67,000 x2 for the football. Explain!”

Liz Cole, co-founder of the parent campaign group UsForThem, said parents were “angry” that council and head teachers were refusing to allow them to attend sports days, despite it being permitted by official guidelines.

“There are many schools who aren’t going ahead with sports day at all and many more which are banning parents from attending,” she said.

“Even in a local area there seems to be a lot of variation with what is going ahead. Families feel a mixture of real anger and also sadness that their children are missing out on these end-of-term activities which are also rites of passage.

“They see their children being disappointed over and over again and they just wanted at least to salvage something from the end of term.”