Beware mudslinging!

31st October 2003 at 00:00
HAMPSHIRE Looking for a job in a county with culture, coastline and the New Forest

You mean the large shire county, home of the New Forest, middle-England sensibilities and cricket?

The very same, although its county town of Winchester took a bit of a battering recently when it came fifth in a league table of Britain's "crap towns".

Winchester? That beautiful ancient city? How dare they!

Quite, While one official guide describes Winchester as "an unspoilt cathedral city on the edge of the South Downs", a new book, Crap Towns: The worst 50 places to live in the UK, begs to differ. One of the book's more interesting pieces of trivia is that the city has one of the world's finest collections of 15th-century graffiti in the cloisters of Winchester College, the town's famous public school. The book says: "Winchester's undoubted beauty is scarred by the broken-beer-bottle violence of its Friday nights, and its mellow flavour soured by the priggish complacency of its inhabitants."

That seems a tad harsh!

You should see what the authors say about its neighbour, Basingstoke, which comes in at number 9: "Basingstoke was a small inoffensive market town until 1961 when it was chosen to receive London overspill. Now it's large and offensive." Needless to say local authorities in both places were outraged and have refuted the book's claims.

So do I really want to teach in Hampshire?

Don't let any of that put you off. Hampshire local education authority is one of the biggest in the country, and offers a diverse choice of schools, says Anna Rowen, the LEA's recruitment manager.

"Hampshire can offer a teacher an urban environment, a rural environment or a coastal environment - all within 45 minutes of each other," she says.

The job market there is much more competitive now than it has been in recent years, since Hampshire was hit by the teacher recruitment crisis.

But there are still some pockets where schools struggle to fill posts.

What is the education authority like?

Hampshire was declared to be a good and improving LEA in the last inspection by the Office for Standards in Education, and was seen as well regarded by its headteachers and governors. The county has 439 primary schools, 71 secondary schools - including a number of beacon and pathfinder schools - and 30 special schools.

The LEA serves a prosperous county with relatively little in the way of disadvantage. Pupil achievement tends to be in line with or above national rates.

This year the county has about 600 newly qualified teachers, and the authority says it works very closely with its schools to provide a good package of continuing professional development.

"We are really trying to work with teachers to give them a diverse career route," says Ms Rowen.

Is there much to do when the marking is done?

Winchester has quite an impressive collection of museums and art galleries, as well as the aforementioned nightlife. There are also a number of galleries and theatres dotted throughout the county's other towns. If you want to get away from it all, there's the New Forest and the nearby coast.

And let's not forget the attractions of Portsmouth (number 11 in the "crap towns league") and Hayling Island (number 26), which is curtly described as "the favoured holiday resort for people from Reading".

Can I afford a house in Hants?

Probably not around the New Forest, where property tends to be pricey. The average cost of a three-bedroom semi in Hants is pound;180,832; the average for a flat or maisonette is pound;120,735.

Any famous sonsdaughters?

Author Jane Austen, actress Elizabeth Hurley, cricketer David Gower and singer Craig David, to name but a few.

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