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Census snub for teachers

Staff once ranked with doctors now join journalists in the 'lower' professional category. Lisa Hutchins reports.

Teachers have slipped in the social pecking order, with the official census removing their A-grade professional status.

Officials that run the national census were going to rank teachers alongside "higher professionals" such as doctors or lawyers. But the impending 2001 census will instead brand teaching a "lower professional occupation" with little influence over work, pay or conditions.

The census, which takes a statistical snapshot of the nation every 10 years, is due on April 29. It will use a new series of eight job classifications based on recommendations made in 1998. These grade the nation's workers from "higher professionals" to routine workers like drivers and cleaners.

The initial recommendations suggested that teachers, along with journalists, social workers and librarians, should be in the top category of "higher managerial and professional occupations". But a last-minute revision by statisticians has left these professions in the second category: "lower managerial and professional occupations".

Teachers' leaders said the move was a sad reflection of the recent decline in pay, status and conditions in education. John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "In terms of wages and pressre, we are seeing teachers travelling down the league table.

"This is an uncomfortable fact which accurately reflects conditions in the profession and which the Government would like to ignore."

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "The Government is trying to raise the status of teachers without raising their income. Unfortunately, status and income are inextricably linked.

"Teachers are constantly told what to do, conditions are deteriorating and this downgrading in status is the inevitable consequence."

Carol Adams, chief executive of the General Teaching Council, which aims to raise the status of teaching, said the new classification could worsen recruitment problems.

"Whatever the rationale behind these new classifications this is exactly the wrong signal to be sending out at a time of teacher shortages."

But a spokesman for the Office of National Statistics said the new classifications were not meant to be hierarchical but group occupations with similar characteristics.

"The old system, which was used from 1911, aimed to bring together occupations with similar skills. The new system has a different perspective and aims to group occupations with similar characteristics and employment relations."

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