Can we only recruit new teachers by lying?

From early finishes to awe-inspiring lessons, TV ads fail to recognise the reality of teachers' lives, writes Alex Waite

Get into teaching TV advert

Over the past few years, there has been a push from the government to remedy the growing teacher-recruitment struggles.

The latest in the Get into Teaching series of TV adverts has drawn criticism for showing a teacher ending his working day at the same time as his pupils

But this is only the latest in a long line of unrealistic adverts. One campaign – entitled “Every lesson shapes a life” – shows a girl progressing through her school life to become a model pupil, thanks to the guidance of her teachers. 

The implication is that every lesson this pupil has ever sat through has been inspiring. No drama, no problems, all smiles. 

Awe and a little disgust

Other adverts have shown children on the edge of their seats, thanks to the wonderful interactive science experiments set up by their teacher. 

One showed a teacher inflating and deflating a human lung, as students watched in awe and a little disgust. 

Another showed a science teacher popping a balloon with a hot flint, while the pupils watched, screaming and laughing in pure enjoyment. 

In yet another, a science teacher is seen projecting an image of the solar system into the classroom for his students. 

There seems to be a reliance on science in such advertisements, along with the occasional cameo from drama or art. Presumably this is an attempt to encourage more scientists to begin a career in teaching. Or maybe it’s just a particularly photogenic subject. 

Pimping the education sector

Of course, these adverts are designed to zoom in on the nuggets of teaching life that evoke wonder in pupils. The creators certainly do a fine job of pimping the education sector and its locations, scouting for the brightest, airiest, most modern schools. 

But the adverts can be very misleading for aspiring teachers. Aside from the broad spectrum of subjects ignored, they will never reflect the day-to-day reality of a teacher or pupil.  

I’m not just talking about leaving work at 4pm. Almost every advert focuses on just one or possibly two subjects, and there is no real reflection on school life. The sugarcoating of fancy experiments hides the bitter truths underneath. 

Art versus reality

An advert showing a Year 6 teacher explaining to their class that they can’t do art this week because their Sats scores need to improve would summarise the matter more clearly. 

So would witnessing a teacher having to plan an English lesson on determiners for five different ability groups. 

Potential recruits would be better off meeting with teachers to hear their first-hand experiences. Or they could go into schools to get a feel for what teaching is like. 

Unfortunately, the reality of teaching now is that there is so much demand from the national curriculum that the awe-inspiring subjects have either had to be incorporated into the wider curriculum or have fallen by the wayside. 

Maths and English can certainly be inspiring and evoke wonder for children. But there are are only so many ways you can teach children what a determiner is, or model how to solve maths problems involving Bodmas.

And none of these would make a compelling advert. 

Alex Waite is a supply teacher in South London

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