Ministers' criticisms blamed for shortages

The Government was attacked and unconventional families defended at the Girls' Schools Association conference, reports Biddy Passmore

GOVERNMENT attacks on teachers have been partly to blame for the recruitment crisis, the head of the training quango said this week.

Clive Booth, chairman of the Teacher Training Agency, said that a constant criticism of teachers had had a "corrosive effect" on the morale of the profession.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Girls' Schools Association in Glasgow he said he had told ministers he was "not happy with the knocking of teachers" that had taken place under the Labour Government, as well as under the previous Conservative regime. Ministers now knew, he said, that they had to be much more careful about "doling out criticism". Criticising the earlier policy of "naming and shaming schools" he said the Government could locate failure and clamp down on it effectively but discreetly. "You don't have to shout from the rooftops, " Professor Booth said.

He outlined plans for a pool of unpaid "teacher advocates" - initially hundreds, perhaps thousands - of enthusiastic teachers who would attend seminars, give one-to-one counselling, speak to final-year undergraduates and appear on television to broadcast the joys of a career in teaching.

The idea was first floated earlier this year by Anthea Millett, the agency's chief executive, who said that teachers should talk up the profession to their pupils.

The difficulty headteachers face in persuading their bright sixth- formers to go into teaching were clearly shown at the conference. Rosanne Musgrave, headteacher of Blackheath High School in south-east London, and next GSA president, said she had asked a pupil at a careers evening if she had thought of teaching but the parents had interjected "Oh, we think she can do better than that."

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