Cash with honours;Opinion

29th May 1998 at 01:00
The Government's attempts to boost teachers' self-esteem - and to restore some of the respect in which they were once more widely held - with honours, television advertisements and now a prestigious televised awards scheme (page 1) are all highly laudable.

In our own way, The TES has recognised with Friday magazine's bouquet of the week that there are simply not enough opportunities to pay tribute to the skill and dedication evident in so many schools. Self-effacing teachers are not always good at celebrating their successes or recognising outstanding individuals. Perhaps they are too busy praising their pupils; too mindful of other achievement mountains yet to climb or the essential part also played by teamwork in any school success.

The teaching profession may need to overcome such curmudgeonly restraint if it wants to win back more autonomy. And as a nation, if we want the most able and enthusiastic to devote their lives to children's education, we cannot afford only to find good things to say about heads and teachers when they are brutally attacked or murdered while protecting their pupils.

For these reasons The TES welcomes the proposed new awards. We will be doing whatever we can to support them. But no one should imagine that new honorifics - no matter how glitzy and ostentatious - add up themselves to what the NAHT's David Hart called this week "a human resource strategy". Awards and advertisements alone will not recruit, retain and motivate the quality and quantities of staff needed in schools.

Even if you throw in advanced skills teachers and the liberty to change pay and conditions in action zones, this does not amount to a strategy sufficient even to meet the selected targets by which the Government would like its commitment to "education, education, education" to be judged, let alone the right of every child to a broad and balanced curriculum.

David Hart is right to acknowledge that the recruitment crisis will not be solved until successful teachers are also appreciated through their pay. The image of the profession, teachers' workloads, the increasing difficulty of filling posts and the growing shortfalls on initial training courses show that the Government cannot afford to wait for action zones to work out new approaches to more attractive and effective pay and conditions.

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