Former Coopers student follows in footsteps of idol

Work experience student Callum Ison interviews Helen Davies, head of PE at Coopers Coborn School,

Work experience student Callum Ison interviews Helen Davies, head of PE at Coopers Coborn School, - Credit: Archant

Head of PE Helen Davies praises former colleague

Coopers Coborn head of PE Helen Davies hopes to continue the legacy left behind by her former teacher and colleague Shona Barrett, who left a lasting mark on the Upminster school and Davies herself.

Davies has been in charge of the PE department for a year and witnessed a wide range of sporting achievements at the school.

A former Coopers pupil herself, Davies has been heavily involved in sport during her student life, as well as her teaching career, coaching teams to numerous finals.

But the fondest recollection for Davies came as a year eight pupil, being coached by future co-worker Barrett.

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“My favourite sporting memory was winning the National Schools’ 1,500m final. It was my first ever national final, I was absolutely petrified and Mrs Barrett actually held my hand all the way up to the start line!” she said.

“I ran and just purely through fear I got a 16-second personal best and actually won at Gateshead international stadium. Mrs Barrett was at the end, arms open wide, crying. So that’s how big an impact she has made on me.”

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After the retirement of Barrett, Coopers was left with a big gap to fill in the sports in which she had helped to coach.

Cross-country was one of those sports that needed a new coach – and also one of Davies’ most preferred events, in which she had been coached by Barrett.

“There is a bit of a reshuffle within the department this year, because of Mrs Barrett leaving, who was here for 25 years and did loads of sport and is an absolute legend of the school.

“With her leaving, a number of the female staff will be taking up additional roles. So at the moment I lead the hockey and the athletics, but I will be taking over the cross-country as well, which is actually probably my strongest sport.

“As a youngster I was a cross-country runner and an athlete who also happened to play hockey and tennis. So I will be working with the cross-country runners to hopefully keep getting them to national finals and carry on Mrs Barrett’s very famous legacy. No pressure on me!”

Davies is hoping the guidance she received from Barrett during her training will help her with the cross-country runners, as she looks to lead them to just as many finals.

At school Davies was hugely influenced by her PE teachers, as these were the people that helped her to progress within her sports.

“As a student I was here, which may sound a little sad and sadly enough my idols were actually my PE teachers, many of whom I now work with, which is probably quite a bizarre situation to be in.

“Obviously there were lots of famous role models that I really thought a lot of, but the PE teachers were probably the biggest influence on me, teaching me how to learn to love sport.”

As a PE teacher herself, Davies has tried to influence her own students, by tutoring them to become better athletes, as well as encouraging them to participate in sports they enjoy and also offering pupils a new sport that they may have never tried before.

Davies is hoping that by offering a wider range of sporting activities, more people will become involved within sport so that the school can have each pupil participating in one extra curricular club.

She added: “We are trying to constantly provide more sporting opportunities for different people. This year we entered go-karting for the first time, we got to the regional finals for that, so fingers crossed that’s another national final in years to come.

“We are just trying to open up as many opportunities to as many different students as we possibly can. That’s what the aim will probably be for the future.”

At Coopers, sports clubs are offered more than any other type of extra curricular activity as the school tries to keep the children participating in sport in order to keep them healthy.

The clubs clearly portray the school’s ethos of ‘Love As Brethren’ being shown through the children’s support for their team-mates.

Davies is very proud of her department’s ability to do this, adding: “The school ethos of Love as Brethren is never more prevalent than on the sports field.

“That camaraderie the students have and that idea of, with a Coopers student you can never bet against them regardless of whether they are the underdog.

“I like to think that the majority of our students in competitions have that extra tenacity to improve, regardless of the situation. I think that’s something that as a department we are really proud of.”

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