In the eyes of the public, teachers are held in the same esteem as social workers, while heads are on a par with management consultants, says a study of teacher status commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills.
Teachers were asked to rank their social position in relation to 12 other jobs: accountants, barristers, doctors, librarians, management consultants, nurses, police officers, social workers, solicitors, surgeons, vets, and web designers.
Top of the list came surgeons and doctors, followed by secondary headteachers, then primary heads. Nurses came next in the ranking, followed first by teachers in secondary schools and then primary teachers.
But an opinion poll by the Office for National Statistics - which was used as part of the study - came up with a different result. It asked a representative sample of 1,815 people to rank teachers against the same 12 professions.
Social workers were considered nearest in terms of respect by 42 per cent of respondents; nurses were cited by 14.5 per cent; and librarians by 14 per cent.
Primary heads' status was regarded as closest to management consultants by 30 per cent of respondents; social workers by 14 per cent; and doctors by 10 per cent. For secondary heads, 35 per cent chose management consultants, 12 per cent doctors and 10 per cent solicitors.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "The public is fickle and fashions change, so I don't think you can read too much into these results.
"But I do know we would not have any doctors, nurses, web designers or anything else if it was not for teachers." The research, carried out in 2003 but only just published by the DfES, found that members of the public were split 5050 over whether they agreed that teaching was an attractive career, with no difference between the primary and secondary sectors.
"Interesting work", "influencing children" and "working with children" were the most-cited positive factors for teachers. By far the most negative factors were "having to control a class", "pay" and "high workload".
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