Curtain rises on teachers as TV stars

29th May 1998 at 01:00
Teachers are about to join the celebrity world of actors, directors and footballers with their own annual awards show, screened live on national television.

This startling departure marks the latest government-backed attempt to jazz up the battered reputation of teaching, currently in the throes of a recruitment crisis.

Education ministers have been working with the BBC on a major showbiz event, hosted by leading public figures. It is understood that film director Lord Puttnam, a Labour peer and a member of the Government's standards task force has played a key part in the plans, which will be formally announced later in the summer.

But recruitment experts have warned that the initiative could backfire if it is seen as a cosmetic answer to the problems.

There is growing alarm at the unpopularity of teaching and mounting evidence that the most able graduates refuse to consider it in their career plans. Training courses cannot find sufficient recruits even in traditionally popular courses such as English.

This week the National Association of Head Teachers said there is a "dire shortage" of entrants and called for a better pay structure.

There will be eight separate categories of award and four finalists for each. The BBC's coverage is likely to involve a central London presentation plus 32 outside broadcast units stationed at schools where the nominees work.

Despite obvious similarities, education officials are adamant that the ceremony should not be termed the teaching "Oscars".

The initiative is thought to have the backing of the Teacher Training Agency, which has already signalled its willingness to harness celebrity fame. The TTA featured John Cleese, Joanna Lumley and David Attenborough in its cinema advertising campaign.

Last summer, chief executive Anthea Millett told a meeting of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers that she was considering a national award ceremony for good teachers.

Speaking at the same event, Michael Bichard, education's top civil servant, said it was "bizarre" that teachers are not given more public attention in contrast with the "luvvies from media and entertainment.

"We need to celebrate our best teachers and our best schools more imaginatively," he said.

John Howson, a recruitment specialist, said "praising good performance is something that happens in every other industry".

Leader, page 14

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