PE staff have feelings too

28th October 2005 at 01:00
A recent review in The TES (Friday magazine, October 14) described how teachers are now seen as sexy in the media, with a particular focus upon the Channel 4 series Teachers and a historical look at characters such as Mark Thackeray, Sidney Poitier's role in To Sir, With Love.

However, there is one particular group of teachers to whom film and television producers have never been particularly kind, and yet no one seems particularly bothered. I refer, of course, to physical education teachers.

How many of us still laugh at the late Brian Glover's hysterically funny portrayal of the PE teacher in Kes? One of the other characters in the film, played the by actorwriter Colin Welland, was recently described in The TES as "the first advanced skills teacher". I doubt very much that poor Billy Casper's nemesis would earn equal plaudits - even though Glover was a former schoolteacher himself.

The bullying, egocentric PE teacher, shoulder-charging youngsters out of the way in order to gain a penalty (which he awards himself and then re-takes after the first is saved) is surely not representative of a noble part of the teaching profession.

If that was the Seventies representation, in the Eighties we had Gregory's Girl, in which the eponymous football starlet is admired as much for her shapely figure as for her football ability by the chauvinistic PE teacher.

We also had the never to be forgotten Bullet Baxter in the long-running television series Grange Hill. Whistle around his neck, ball under the arm, always ready for a punch-up if a bit of "strong arm" was needed. How Tucker Jenkins ever made it to EastEnders and The Bill after being scarred by Baxter we will never know.

Even in Teachers, Channel 4's most recent contribution to the portrayal of our profession, we meet the hapless halfwit, Brian. Still with whistle swinging and ball under arm, he earnestly asks the headteacher about starting an A-level PE course. She simply looks at him and guffaws before dismissing him like an impertinent child.

Can someone in the media please note that PE has been an all-graduate profession since the late Seventies and some of us even have GCSEs! We are more likely to have a laptop under our arm than a rugby ball and some PE teachers even make it to the top jobs in school and in education.

Why, I'm sure that Billy Casper's PE teacher is probably even now doing Ofsted inspections with all the compassion and relish that he once showed on the sports field.

Chris Conway is a PE teacher and assistant headteacher at a school in Solihull

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