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30 years ago

Regular columnist of the time Irene McCulloch, assistant head of Hailesland primary in Edinburgh with responsibility for early education, spoke up for the infants - teachers, that is (TESS, December 12, 1975): Education today demands that the infant teacher has qualities that were never before considered necessary. She is no longer just the mother-substitute who adores children, nor is she a stern woman who thinks little children choose to be annoying.

She has to be lively, cheerful, patient and willing to share the joys of discovery with her pupils. She must be perceptive, constantly diagnosing her children's needs. Referrals to special agencies, reports for panel and social work departments demand an acute perception and some considerable skill in observation.

She has to be physically fit and mentally alert and must possess the ability to organise. This is necessary since she has to teach in groups, assess each child's progress and keep records and checklists up to date.

The interests must be varied and, if she is to explain points lucidly and coherently, she must think clearly and logically.

We expect her to be articulate, giving children, very often for the first time, an awareness of language and a vocabulary which means something to them.

Last in my list, but not least by any means, is the need for a sense of humour. I don't think I have ever met an infant teacher who does not have a treasure chest of amusing anecdotes gathered over the years. I would go so far as to say I cannot imagine a successful infant teacher who cannot see the funny side of things.

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