Bouquet of the week;Kath Cooper

19th March 1999 at 00:00
There's nothing like energy and enthusiasm to help turn a school around. The effect of just one person can be huge, not least because children pick up that something's happening and want to be part of it.

Kath Cooper arrived at St George Community School, Bristol, 18 months ago as head of physical education and dance. It was her second job and she was looking for a challenge. "I wanted something that had nothing, a PE depart-ment where I could mould and invent everything," she says. "I didn't want to fill boots - I wanted to make an impact."

By any measure St George is a tough school to work in - it serves some of the poorest parts of Bristol. Half of its 800 pupils have special needs; 100 have statements; and half receive free school meals. Kath's appointment came soon after an Office for Standards in Education inspection had found serious weaknesses. That was the challenge.

Kath introduced a discipline policy that assumed every child would participate in sports activities. "There had been massive non-participation - sometimes half a class would sit out. Now the kids don't want to miss sport." She also introduced an assessment policy, dance for all at key stage 3, plus GCSE qualifications in PE and dance. Every day, at lunch-time and after school, there are clubs and team practice.

The school's name has now begun to appear in the competitive sports leagues of Bristol schools. Year groups have teams playing netball, baseball, football, rugby and cricket. Nor is it just about competition; a fitness room has opened at the school.

Headteacher Ray Priest says Kath's vitality has transformed school life. "Her enthusiasm is infectious. She also works so hard that other teachers think 'We've got to give her a hand'." There's not a person on the staff, he says, who wouldn't agree that Kath has made a significant impact on the school. Soon Kath is getting married - our flowers are to say thank you and good luck.

Travelling with the United Nations Children's Fund, TES international editor Brendan O'Malley went to Kosovo and met teachers like Hysen Mulaky who are struggling against the odds to sustain hope and make the present more bearable. In this civil war Unicef sees education as an essential part of aid and sustenance for traumatised families. The address for donations is on page 7.

Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks amp; Spencer. Names, please, on a postcard - and why - to Sarah Bayliss, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY.

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