School children should be taught to “lose graciously” and accept defeat with a handshake, according to the chairman of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS).
Speaking at the association’s annual conference in London, the Telegraph reports that Eddy Newton said “learning to lose” was vital to help prepare young people for adult life when they inevitably fail to get a job or go through periods when they struggle in the workplace.
He also said that the best schools promoted success and competition but also encouraged the “life lessons of coping with defeat or a lack of success”.
Schools have also been encouraged to teach pupils simple etiquette such as shaking hands before and after sports fixtures and cheering on the opposition, in order to create an environment where there is “no shame in coming second”.
“Some children are very competitive and they struggle with the idea that they haven’t won,” said Newton, who is head of Chafyn Grove Prep School in Salisbury.
“You will have some children who weep and wail very occasionally and gradually learn that it’s just part of the way life should be.
“We try to explain to our children that it’s how well they play the game, the effort they put it, the attitude towards wanting to win.
“It would be strange to start a sporting fixture trying not to win, but accepting defeat graciously is an important aspect for all prep school heads to engender in their schools.
“You show them the etiquette of cheering the other side, shaking hands and saying, ‘well played’ – things that might sound rather old-fashioned but might help with breaking the disappointment of losing.”
A number of leading private schools started introducing measures to encourage their high-achieving students to accept defeat, such as Oxford High School for Girls, which introduced a maths test where it was impossible to get 100 per cent to prevent students becoming obsessed with “perfection”, while Wimbledon High School ran a “failure week” to teach pupils to build resilience.