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Media leave confidence undented

David Budge and Maureen O'Connor end their reports from the British Educational Research Association conference.

The constant denigration of teaching in the media does not appear to have affected the self-confidence of maths teachers. The status attached to teaching a core subject regarded as hard may protect them from most of the brickbats that are tossed at teachers.

Researchers from the University of Lancaster who interviewed 178 secondary teachers of maths, technology and the humanities found that the three "academic tribes" had some very different perspectives. Maths teachers tended to view themselves as more professional than other teachers, one of the Lancaster researchers, Dr Peter Knight, told the conference. One mathematician, for example, admitted: "I am a bit elitist about it, I suppose, but I try not to let it show."

Technology teachers were more anxious about their standing and that of their subject. "I tend to say that I teach food technology or home economics and people turn round and say 'You teach cookery' . . . People look down on you a bit, which comes from when home economics teachers used to prepare the governors' teas at sports days."

Former craft teachers had suffered equally dismissive treatment, and some technology teachers felt that the changes and upheaval that their subject had experienced since the introduction of the national curriculum had lowered its status.

Peter Knight pointed out that some of the humanities teachers were upset that history and geography had become optional subjects at key stage 4, but in general, they had little to say about the status of their subjects.

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