Helen's school has a "Golden Assembly" each Friday, in which one child in each class gets a Golden Award. Every Thursday she asks me, a bit wistfully, questions like "do you think I'll get the Golden Award tomorrow?". And now she's started talking about it at other times, too.
She's generally well-behaved and helpful in class, as far as I can tell, so could get an award for that; and they've given Golden awards for "being confident in literacy", on which grounds she could be given one at any time. She also knows all this herself, and there's nothing obvious (that I can see) that she can do to make her selection more likely. So having her worrying, or even just thinking a lot, about these awards seems to serve no purpose. She never talks positively about her friends or classmates getting the awards, only negatively about not, or potentially, getting one herself. (I don't know if the plan is that all the children get a Golden award at some point in the year, but she'll be distressed if she never does; that would feel like being punished.)
Her class also uses something called ClassDojo, which involves the children collecting "dojo points" for such things as tidying up and good reading. These are individual and public — I've seen a projector screen showing how many each child had collected that day — and so seem straightforwardly competitive. (There may be some class-wide ones as well; in Reception there was a system where the class as a whole accumulated marbles in a jar and getting enough earned them a treat of some kind.) Helen doesn't talk about these as often as about the Golden Awards, and when she mentions having got the most dojo points that day I try to refocus her onto what she did to get them. But this reminds me of the time in pre-school when, instead of being excited by the chicks they had hatched, all Helen talked about was how she hadn't got a certificate for looking after them well.
There's also a colour face system for feelings and/or behaviour, which I think (from what Helen has said) is a mix of teacher- and self-prescribed, where children who are feeling blue (sad?) or yellow (?) can go into the book corner to have some time to themselves, and ones with red faces have to sit by the teacher. (In Reception, the class had a Red-Yellow-Green face system, where people faces were stuck onto a board on one of three colours, to show how well they'd behaved.) Helen doesn't seem to think about this much, but I suspect that if she ever did get a red face that would really distress her but not necessarily change her behaviour.
So I'm not convinced these schemes are a good idea. (One of the reasons I preferred Larkrise to the other schools we looked at was the relative absence of rankings, ladders, star charts etc. on the walls. Though of course this is largely up to individual teachers.) They may work for some children, but I suspect they have diminishing returns and negative long-term effects. Some reading:
I agree that it is unnecessarily competitive.
What's wrong with a comment from the teacher like 'Well done'. That's acknowledgement and could be for anything and all children can be so encouraged at sometime.