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Time off for staff is big business

Young gun with an army of sports coaches is set to make millions covering for teachers

An award-winning young entrepreneur is on course to create a multi-million pound business from the deal to cut teachers' workload.

James Taylor, a child psychology graduate, spotted a gap in the market when he realised that some primaries would struggle to offer their teachers half a day a week for lesson preparation and marking.

His business, Sportstars Wales, offers a solution by providing professional sports coaches at pound;25 an hour, undercutting the costs of qualified teachers and freeing them up for PPA (planning, preparation and assessment).

Taylor, 25, said: "I read about PPA time in The TES and on the internet. I had spoken to heads and knew it was going to be a massive headache for them. I told them we will not only cover PPA time, but also deliver the sport curriculum to a very high standard. With all the concerns about childhood obesity, it just fell together perfectly."

Now, just over a year since PPA entitlement came in, he has 28 schools on his books, representing 30 per cent of Cardiff's primaries.

Annual turnover is already pound;350,00, and from February the company will expand across South Wales and South West England, offering everything from football to cheerleading. Taylor, 2005's Welsh young entrepreneur of the year, expects to have made a similar impact in every single authority in England and Wales by 2011.

"We have got a winning formula," he said. "There are music and drama specialists floating about, but they tend to be a one-man band. We have 150 coaches on our books so that we can send any number to schools, which means all teachers can take their PPA at the same time and collaborate."

John Tobutt, head of Gabalfa primary, Cardiff, began using Sportstars Wales in September after money to pay for an extra teacher to provide PPA ran out.

He said: "Two coaches come in every morning and take pupils from the nursery right through to Year 6, who absolutely love it."

The deal costs 40 per cent less than a full-time teacher.

Tobutt said: "It is early days, but my first reaction is that the coaches are very able indeed. They are very popular within the school and are regarded now as members of staff. This allows us to provide something that some colleagues might not be keen on teaching.

"Primary teachers are known for their expertise in just about everything, but sport is often something you are either passionate about or have a strong dislike for."

Mr Taylor believes he has a ready supply of young sports coaches to tap into as his business continues to grow.

"There are thousands of graduates coming out of sports coaching and sports science courses in universities across the country," he said. "They trained to do this job, but there is no outlet for them. They are just ending up in dead-end jobs. We can enable them to use their skills," he said.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "As long as schools are clear that sports coaching does not replace timetabled good-quality PE, then this seems like a helpful way forward."

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said the union did not have a problem with using skilled coaches in schools, but the needs of the curriculum should come first.

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