Downsend School lives by the mantra, ‘Sport for All’. From supporting budding athletes through an elite pathway to providing all pupils with the opportunity to represent their school through competition, the aim is the same. To support wellbeing and develop character and resilience that comes through participation in sport.

At the start of the 2019/20 school year, Downsend introduced a new School Sport Policy based on ‘Respect’ which clearly sets out the school’s expectations and philosophy where sport is concerned.

The inclusive approach did not stop Downsend’s ability to take sport to the next level, as shown by the number of sporting successes achieved during the 2019/20 academic year and the school’s inclusion in the top 50 UK prep/junior schools for cricket by The Cricketer Schools Guide 2021. Cricket is very popular with girls and boys at Downsend, inspired by former Downsend alumnus, Dom Sibley. And when lockdown hit, the Downsend team recognised the value of sport in uniting their school community and promoting wellbeing during those challenging times, resulting in an outstanding school performance in a competition with partner Cognita schools around the world.

Sport throughout lockdown

Downsend immediately recognised the importance of maintaining sporting activities for all pupils (and families) when the first lockdown was introduced in March 2020, inspiring other schools within the Cognita network to do the same. Live ‘Shake up to wake up’ sessions were scheduled three times a week, often with over 200 participants at a time! The Sports Department also delivered a variety of sporting opportunities during the week to encourage as much participation as possible, including a 1km run challenge, ‘Yoga-cise’, a themed workout of the day and online match analysis. Recognising the importance of keeping up technical skills, online lessons and challenges were set for different sports, which were particularly valuable for stronger athletes. The engagement from students was significant, with some students even taking the initiative to organise their own running challenges to raise money for their local NHS heroes.

Victory at the Cognita Home Games

To maintain fitness and physical activity during the lockdown period, Downsend led and participated in the Cognita Home Games (CHG) – a global event held in May 2020 involving a series of challenges for the entire school community to do at home. Downsend even managed to persuade Sir Andy Murray to voice his support for the Games!

To kick off their approach to the Games, before school, over 100 pupils joined Grant Lawrence for an optional online workout, using fun fitness games incorporating all the CHG movements that the pupils would be expected to complete. Games lessons in the afternoons also included a fitness focus based on activities for the global competition.

Once again, this inclusive approach proved to be successful. Downsend emerged as the overall winners across 67 partner schools within Cognita and two pupils received commendations for outstanding performances.