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Sporty hybrid to lessen the load

Over the past few years the Government has trawled the world for exciting ways to raise standards in primary education.

Much of the numeracy strategy, for instance, was based on practice in Taiwan, and our foundation stage curriculum reflects that of Scandinavian pre-schools. It may now be time to copy the most striking aspect of Sweden's primary schools.

While taking part in a British Council international placement scheme for headteachers I recently spent three days in two primaries in Uppsala. Each had a PE specialist and shared a music teacher, leaving class teachers free to plan and prepare lessons while pupils took classes in the music room or gym.

It seems such a simple way of giving British primary teachers the non-contact time they so desperately need while providing high-quality teaching.

So why is the British government so afraid of employing more teachers? It has been suggested we would be unable to recruit enough teachers to fill the vacancies, though for PE at least this is not the case.

There are now hundreds of secondaries which have become specialist sports colleges. They produce thousands of school- leavers who dream of a career in sport, sports management or sports teaching. Perhaps it is time to create a new type of job - a hybrid between a fully-qualified teacher and an instructor. This would be a primary PE and sports specialist - not a classroom assistant - who would not need the full range of class teacher skills but would, instead, need a high level of subject knowledge in PE and sports.

The Government's solution to the workload problem is to employ more classroom assistants. I suggest ministers allow schools to recruit a PE specialist instead. This could achieve workload aims. The health benefits alone should justify giving the idea serious thought.

Kevin James is head of Hadrian Park primary school, Wallsend

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