Chief rabbi leaps to teachers' defence

14th September 2001 at 01:00
Sacks says staff are being asked to do the impossible. Jon Slater reports.

Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi, this week launched a scathing attack on the treatment of teachers by the Government and society.

"Today's teachers are undervalued, under-supported and underpaid," he said. "Teachers are being asked to do the impossible, to teach the national curriculum, deal with bureaucracy and keep discipline and the interest of young people." Their task was made harder by the fact that young people's attention spans were shrinking, he said.

Rewards on offer to teachers today did not reflect the profession's importance. "Teachers' salaries have fallen far behind comparable professions and in London and the South-east may be barely enough to live on," Dr Sacks said.

He was speaking at a conference on teacher status organised jointly by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a left-of-centre think tank and the General Teaching Council.

Earlier, Carol Adams chief executive of the council, had warned the Government that the GTC would oppose any measures in last week's White Paper that could have a negative effect on teacher supply.

"If we have policies that have a detrimental effect on teacher recruitment and retention then we will be in a worse position than we are now," she said. "We need to ask: is this going to make people want to stay in the classroom?" Ms Adams stressed that the council had not yet made its mind up about the White Paper and would be consulting teachers across the country before it responded.

But she added: "We need to look at privatisation. Could that lead to companies siphoning off teachers in shortage subjects meaning fewer teachers for schools to choose from?

"It is our duty to challenge the Government. If we find aspects of the proposals will make the situation worse we need to say that."

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