Altruists, we need you first

5th May 2006 at 01:00
pound;12.7m is being spent on a campaign to recruit 40,000 new teachers, reports Dorothy Lepkowska

If you are a self-interested idealist who knows why blondes are dumb and brunettes boring, and can explain why daddy long-legs should even exist, then here is the job for you. Teaching.

The latest series of television commercials aimed at recruiting more teachers is targeting altruists, preferably with a degree in maths or the sciences.

The Training and Development Agency for Schools is about to unveil 10 advertisements, costing pound;400,000 to film, which it hopes will entice 40,000 new entrants to the profession.

Images of headless people or clips of happy classroom scenes accompanied by funky music are out. Instead, the advertisements feature answers to students' questions about science, maths and a range of other issues. More than 100 pupils from schools in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Leeds were filmed over a period of four days.

None of the teenagers is an actor but they were chosen after a rigorous selection process, with producers looking for those who had strong opinions.

The commercials are part of a pound;12.7 million integrated campaign, which includes a website, brochures, events, PR and an information helpline.

Airtime alone will cost about pound;3.5m, with the commercials being shown on Channel 4, Five and cable and satellite networks. Four of the 10 are aimed specifically at maths and science graduates.

The children come across as inquisitive, funny and eager to learn. They were directed by Ken Macdonald, the director who won an Oscar for his documentary Touching the Void, the story of two climbers and their perilous journey through the Peruvian Andes.

Previous TV advertisements promoting teaching were shown in prime-time programmes such as Friends, on Channel 4.

However, a more specific target audience is now being sought. A TDA spokesman said: "We are targeting people whom we call self-interested idealists. They are people with an altruistic nature, who want to contribute to society and the community, but at the same time want something back for themselves.

"In future, we will also have to consider other ways of getting the message across. Like all professionals, teachers are now accessing information through a variety of new media, such as blogging and pod-casts, so we will have to examine ways of using these, too."

The first 30-second commercial will be shown on Sunday at about 8.10pm on Channel 4 during Invasion. In the following days they can also be seen alongside The Paul O'Grady Show, Countdown, The Man with 80 Wives and Wife Swap.

The TDA said the response of the teaching unions to the ads was favourable.

A spokeswoman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: "The commercials are based on a certain type of realism. They work very well.

The use of young people reminds people of the rewards of going into teaching."

And in case you're wondering what made the pig-tailed girl laugh so uncontrollably - she burped during filming.

* dorothy.lepkowska@tes.co.uk

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