Olympic heroes inspire Mo and Mo new teachers

2nd November 2012 at 00:00
Interest in teaching PE doubles after success at the Games

This summer the nation was wowed by the awesome feats of Britain's Olympic heroes - and witnessed first-hand the dedication and commitment needed to win a gold medal.

The Games also highlighted the importance of PE teachers in helping athletes to achieve their dreams. Now it seems that London 2012 has led to a boom in interest in teaching the next generation of sports stars.

According to the Department for Education, the number of people interested in teaching PE has doubled in comparison with the same time last year, a figure based on enquiries to its Teaching Line telephone advice service.

Education secretary Michael Gove reported the trend to Sebastian Coe (pictured, right), chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), when he attended a Cabinet meeting last month.

Sue Wilkinson, strategic lead at the Association for Physical Education and director of its professional support unit, said the organisation was "delighted and not surprised" by the news.

"The Olympics have left an incredible legacy. Obviously physical education is the key to inclusive physical engagement within the national curriculum in England and Wales, which can enhance any legacy," she said. "Teachers such as Alan Watkinson, Mo Farah's teacher, have shown themselves to be fantastic advocates for the subject. They are such good role models."

Chris Eccles, who taught PE to Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis at King Ecgbert School, Sheffield, said he was pleased by the public's recognition of PE teachers.

"The teaching profession usually gets a bit of a bashing when things don't go so well, so it's nice that the public recognise the contribution they make to young people's lives and how they influence them at an early stage," he said.

Jo Harris, senior lecturer in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University, said the Olympics has led to a "rise in status" for PE teachers.

"The public have seen that they make an amazing difference to people's lives," she said.

The spike in interest for courses starting in 2013 follows an 11 per cent drop in the number of people applying for teacher training in PE in 2012: 3,281 people applied for 835 places on courses starting in September 2012, compared with 3,688 the previous year.

But PE teachers and the Association for Physical Education are concerned that there are fewer employment opportunities for PE specialists.

The government has stopped funding School Sport Partnerships, although secondary schools still receive funding to pay for one day a week of a PE teacher's time to be spent out of the classroom, encouraging greater take-up of competitive sport.

"Lots of really good young teachers can't get jobs, and this won't change unless something happens that means we need more PE teachers," Mr Eccles said.

Ms Wilkinson has called on the government not to cut the number of trainee PE teachers.

LOCOG chair Lord Coe said: "Through the successful staging of the Olympic and Paralympic Games we have provided the inspiration for young people to get involved with sport. That enthusiasm must be harnessed by willing parents, teachers and coaches, so I'm delighted to hear that the interest in becoming a PE teacher has doubled."

A DfE spokeswoman said: "PE teachers will play a vital role in the new national PE curriculum, which will require every primary school child to take part in competitive team sport."


26,000 - The number of in-service PE teachers in secondary schools according to a 2011 DfE census.

80% - had a relevant post A-level qualification in the subject.

57% - of those starting teacher training in PE in 2010-11 had a 2:1 degree or above.

72% - The DfE's target for trainees starting courses with a 2:1 degree or above in 2013-14.

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