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Nicole? No, it's a woman teacher

Tony Blair needs to forget white- van man and start wooing Supermini Miss if he is to win teachers' backing at the next general election, a TES poll suggests.

Small cars are easily the most popular with teachers who are most likely to be seen taking a spin in a Ford Fiesta or a Renault Clio.

Women teachers' favourite car is the Renault Clio, advertised on television by Arsenal footballer Thierry Henry. One in 12 drives a Clio while one in 17 has opted for the Fiesta, the next most popular model.

None of their male colleagues admits to driving a Clio. The Fiesta is their top car of choice followed by Clio's big brother, the Megane. Vauxhalls, Peugeots, Nissans and VWs are other favoured makes, although the poll also found Audi, BMW and Mercedes drivers.

Gary McMahon, a Bolton supply teacher who owns David Beckham's old Mercedes SLK convertible, said: "Children are so fashion conscious these days that many are turned off school because they do not respect teachers' image."

While white-van man was seen as a key swing voter during the 1997 general election, teachers have yet to attract the same political attention. But at least small car owners generally escape the van driver's reputation for gearbox crunching menace.

The survey of 468 teachers, conducted by polling firm FDS International, found that 93 per cent have regular use of a car. But that figure drops to 82 per cent among those with less than five years' experience.

One in 10 members of the National Union of Teachers says they do not have regular access to a car compared to 5 per cent of National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers' members, and just one in 100 with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

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