Since April, I, a non-teacher, have heard of a whole block of trainee teachers at a Sussex college abandoning their course and their career in midstream, of a well-qualified 18-year-old opting for joinery rather than PE teaching (his original long-held ambition), and of some successful teaching staff giving serious thought to downshifting because of increasing pressures.
No doubt most people would have similar stories. As the economy improves there will be ample scope for teachers, both serving and potential, to use their varied talents more lucratively elsewhere.
Pay is undoubtedly a major factor, as is the imposition of higher education tuition fees from 1998, but the most powerful deterrent to joining the profession and staying there is its poor image. The right-wing press has bashed teachers for decades and that simply indicates its attitude problems. The real cause of the bad image is the persistent official mantra from the Prime Minister, the Department for Education and Employment and the Office for Standards in Education which constantly implies that schools and teachers need improving.
Teachers know that they are already greatly improved by their own efforts and have nothing left to give. What is needed is better policies, pay, funding and organisation, plus laws to strengthen the powers of schools over irresponsible parents and pupils.
This will only come from decisive action by politicians who must take all the blame if they fail to prevent a total collapse of the system.
41 Meon Road Mickleton Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire