PAUL Hart admits he has the best job in the world – but he also knows to quit while you are ahead.
The Southend-based teacher will stand down as head of PE at Alleyn Court Preparatory School after more than quarter of a century at the Southend school.
During that time he has seen the independent school develop into one of the powerhouses of primary school sport in south Essex.
Pupils have regularly enjoyed success at borough sports level and on the national stage at the Independent Schools’ Association events.
“I look out across the playing fields every day and think I have the best job in the world,” said 56-year-old Hart.
“But you know when you get to that time when it’s right to retire.
“I wanted to go when the school was at the top sporting-wise and I wanted to have the opportunity to see my daughter Emma and son Joe playing basketball in American and Canada.”
Hart, who was born in Ilford but was brought up in Thundersley, started teaching in 1974 and held posts at various schools, including Appleton in Benfleet, and Eastwood School.
He competed with the British bobsleigh team at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics while working as a supply teacher before being head-hunted to join the staff at Alleyn Court.
Since then he has seen many changes at the school, from the move to Wakering Road from Westcliff, the admission of girls, to the teaching of pupils up to GCSE level and then to the current primary levels.
But he has always instilled the same sporting ethos into his pupils.
“I believe you should be the best that you can be,” Hart said. “The majority of time in sport you will lose, but if you want to succeed it’s about your attitude.
“The best performers start with the right attitude and learn from their mistakes. We always encourage the children to take their sport to the highest level they can.”
Hart acknowledges the debt his department has to the school’s management and governors for their support.
He said the PE department is well-staffed and has excellent facilities which allow it to be run on a par with secondary schools rather than primaries.
And after 26-and-a-half years at Alleyn Court, Hart admits: “There have been many highlights, but I always remember the first medal that Stephen Hamm won at a national championhip. He got a bronze in the 400m.
“But it’s not all about the medals, seeing a pupil make a personal achievement in sport gives me just as much satisfaction.
“If I can have a legacy I would like it to be that each pupil has been the best that they can be, and have been inspired to carry that on after they have left the school.”
Hart, whose wife Paula is deputy head at the school, is planning to reduce his golf handicap in his retirement, and he admits there might be other opportunities in the pipeline.