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Do your homework to attract best staff

Improving the status of teachers in society is vital for a successful educational system, the conference was told.

Teaching quality is a key influence on student learning and efforts to improve schools will fail if there are serious shortfalls in teacher supply and quality, according to Teachers Matter, a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development published in June this year.

John Coolahan, a former professor at the National University of Ireland, said: "The status of teachers is very important, especially for the recruitment and retention of quality staff, but trying to improve it is a long haul. Policy-makers need to be much more affirmative about teachers in society."

Abrar Hasan, the OECD's head of education and training policy, said: "If you look at public surveys about the perception of teachers, there has been no decline in their standing. However, if we survey teachers themselves, we find that their perceptions about their own profession have declined.

"There must be more focus on teachers in a holistic way. It is not just a matter of better salaries. Perhaps teachers need more support staff, for example."

He added that in the past teachers had been seen as interchangeable. "That is just not true," Mr Hasan said. "Schools must place more attention on selection criteria for new appointments, on on-going evaluation and on the support given to their teaching staff."

He said it was important to develop a "teacher profile", defining what they need to know and do. Training methods and teaching techniques must be based on thorough research and this should be shared among teachers throughout the world.

Elena Lenskaya, administrator of the British Council in Russia, said that her organisation had helped to set up a pilot programme for in-service training for teachers in a number of schools in Russia. She said: "I think this training helps to measure progress and this really helps to stimulate teachers."

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