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Gifted pupils get chance to teach

Talented young athletes are earning coaching qualifications so they can teach PE to fellow students, reports William Stewart.

A school is making the most of its young sports stars by allowing them to teach PE.

Sixth-formers at the new Capital city academy, Brent, are involved in teaching around half of all Year 7 PE lessons in the west London school.

They are among 90 students aged 14 and upwards are working towards some kind of coaching and leadership qualification at the school.

Staff say the scheme builds pupils' confidence and helps to relieve teacher workload. The sixth-formers who already have coaching qualifications can take extra-curricular sessions unsupervised.

London Gifted and Talented, a government-funded agency set up to help the capital's schools cater for their most able pupils, believes the scheme could be extended to subjects such as art and music.

Debbie Ramm-Harpley, the academy's director of sport, said the students involved were elite athletes with coaching qualifications in tennis, athletics and basketball and a specialist understanding of their sports.

When teaching timetabled lessons, they were closely supervised and tutored by qualified teachers.

The scheme was an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding, she said. "It also contributes towards their academic success because it gives them confidence in their abilities. These pupils come from a range of backgrounds."

The academy, which opened in September and has a sport specialism, uses its right to select 10 per cent of pupils on aptitude to attract top young athletes from across London.

Its intake includes a tennis player aiming for a world ranking, five under-18 national league basketball champions and an Olympic sprint hopeful.

The young coaches are able to take sessions outside the normal school timetable. These include Wednesday afternoons when the academy, which runs longer days during the rest of the week, suspends lessons for "enrichment activities".

Ms Ramm-Harpley said this freed up teachers' time and gave the students a chance to shine. One 17-year-old had taken a basketball drill session for the whole of Year 7 - around 180 pupils - on his own.

LGT, an arm of the London Challenge initiative run by a consortium of local authorities, universities and education consultants, wants to see if the idea will work in other state schools in the capital.

Ian Warwick, the LGT's development director, said: "This scheme is something that works really effectively and needs to be shared. And if it works well in PE then why not subjects like music and the visual arts? This is about empowering pupils within their school and building their confidence and leadership abilities."

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