Check out the gift horses too

15th October 2004 at 01:00
According to Somerset Maugham, every good story needs sex, class, religion and mystery. "'My God,' said the Duchess, 'I'm pregnant.' 'Who did it?'"

was his succinct model. Last Sunday there were two teacher supply stories in the national papers. Arguably, neither of them was as important as the issue that Janet Ryder addresses (opposite page) - the frighteningly large number of newly-trained Welsh teachers who cannot complete their induction year and therefore cannot gain qualified status.

Perhaps the London press will catch up with that story next week. But this week the Observer "revealed" that children across Britain are being taught by unqualified assistants to save money. On the same day, the Sunday Telegraph broke the story of Tristram Jones-Parry, head of Westminster school, who was told by England's General Teaching Council that he could not be registered to teach in a state school despite years of successful experience and a shortage of 3,500 maths teachers.

Both stories were based on questionable assumptions. But the one that caused a hue and cry was not the thousands of children deprived of a qualified teacher but the slight offered to Mr Jones-Parry. To his credit, he said he wished to "give a bit back". Taken literally, there was nothing to stop him: volunteers in the classroom need no qualifications. Nor are there many obstacles left to prevent a state school paying him for his trouble, whether he has qualified status or not.

As Mr Jones-Parry accepts, it is entirely reasonable that some formal check should be made on the qualifications and suitability of anyone who wants to teach in a publicly-provided school. If there is any whiff of scandal here it is that so many parents pay for private education where this is not a requirement.

There was no obvious sex or religion in this story and the only mystery is quite why it proved so potent. That leaves class.

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