Rush Green head defends decision to compete in Australia during term time

Simon Abeledo after winning his world championship race

Simon Abeledo after winning his world championship race - Credit: Archant

A headteacher has defended his decision to take time off from school to compete in an Australian duathlon after winning his race.

Paul Simon Abeledo, of Rush Green Primary School, in Dagenham Road, was given five days of unpaid leave to take part in the 2015 Adelaide ITU Duathlon World Championships at the weekend, and won the men’s 45-49 class.

Last year the Post revealed how the 46-year-old took part in an Austrian triathlon during term-time, triggering the launch of an independent investigation by the school’s governors.

But by balancing his sport and work life – often training beyond midnight – Mr Abeledo insists his competitions actually help teach children valuable life lessons.

“It’s all still a bit of dream,” he said. “I never expected to win.

“Life can be a lot like sport, and I just want to show the children that it’s not always the most talented people that are the most successful, it’s the people that are willing to put in the hard work.

“I want to show the importance of determination and that sometimes in life they will fall down, but it’s all about picking themselves back up again.”

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A newsletter signed by the governors was sent home to parents earlier this month informing them of the head’s movements, sparking some angry responses.

Last month it was reported that a record number of parents in Barking and Dagenham were taken to court because of their children’s poor attendance in the last school year.

But Rush Green Primary’s chair of governors David Hodge insisted the head was given unanimous approval to go to Australia.

“Simon made it clear from the start that he would sometimes be competing for Great Britain from time to time,” he said.

“All applications, for both staff and pupils, go through the same process and we’ve given pupils leave in the past to take part in sports competitions.

“There’s a problem in Barking and Dagenham with child obesity so anything we can do to address that is great, and not many kids are taught by a world-champion.”

Mr Abeledo, who has been in charge at the school since 2013, also took part in the Pontevedra ITU Duathlon World Championships in Spain during the May half-term last year, as well as the Horst ETU Powerman Long Distance a month before.

He is set to defend his world title in Spain next year.