PE teacher wins top lifetime achievement award

18th June 2010 at 01:00
Scottish schools and teachers bring trophies back from London in TES Schools Awards

A South Lanarkshire teacher has won the top honour for a lifetime's achievement in the first UK-wide TES Schools Awards, presented yesterday at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

Alan Byrne is no stranger to Scottish teachers and pupils, having worked with thousands of them in his 40 years as a PE teacher. For 27 of them, he has taught at Stonelaw High, putting the school firmly on the national map with countless sporting victories.

In the past year alone, Stonelaw produced four Scottish Cup-winning teams in volleyball (two), cross-country and football, and seven internationalists from six sports. Three of the current Scottish volleyball team come from the school.

Mr Byrne's pioneering approach to setting sport in S2 won media recognition four years ago for boosting the achievement of the best athletes while increasing the fitness of the young citizens of Rutherglen, who sported pedometers with enthusiasm as they strived to raise their exercise levels and enjoyed sessions on the trampoline or running through the local heritage park.

School inspectors have praised his PE department's "new and creative approach to improving the health and well-being of young people", recommending it as an example of good practice. And Stonelaw has won bronze, silver and gold awards for being a health-promoting school.

His Higher course materials are used by more than 100 schools and he leads national and local authority inservice training. He has also, through "caring counsel and motivation to students who struggled elsewhere", produced some of the best PE exam results in Scotland.

On top of that, Mr Byrne, whose teenage daughter died 15 years ago after years of 24-hour care, has helped other similarly-afflicted families and managed to fundraise over pound;80,000 for charity.

The school's nomination drew a vast range of testimonials from colleagues past and present, which reflected their admiration and affection for him. The words "inspiration", "energy", "commitment", "passion" and "enthusiasm" ran through them, as did "respect" and "regard".

Uddingston teacher Jean McLeod said: "He epitomises the phrase `Deeds, not words', leading by example in teaching, managing his department, moderating for SQA or taking extra-curricular activities. He shares knowledge and experiences."

Another teacher, Lisa Polombo, said: "In leading the curriculum, Alan is informed and his opinion valued. Revered across Scotland, he comes into lives and makes big differences, whether you're a pupil, colleague or friend."

His headteacher, Brian Cooklin, simply added: "I know of no other colleague who deserves this award more. Alan is unique."

The TES judges were overwhelmed by Mr Byrne's achievements, saying: "The sheer range of sport that he's taught is impressive - but it's even more impressive when you see so many of his teams have succeeded at such a high level. And on top of this, he has done unstinting work for charities. He's done it all."

See The TES Schools Awards booklet with this week's paper


Corseford School in Renfrewshire scooped Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year, for "How was it in school today?" (TESS, June 11).

The school, which caters for five to 18-year-olds with complex and physical difficulties, including communication, has been using equipment developed by Aberdeen and Dundee universities to give children more control over what they tell their parents. The judges said: "The technology they've developed means that severely handicapped children can communicate with their parents just as well as any others."

St Michael's Primary and Glenmanor Primary in North Lanarkshire were highly commended for outstanding community involvement in their 50th anniversary commemoration of a local mining disaster (TESS, May 28). The judges said the children's memorial gardens and museums "connected generations".

Original print headline: PE teacher of 40 years wins top UK lifetime achievement award

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