Don't help to keep salaries and conditions down;Letter

17th April 1998 at 01:00
Any teacher who follows the Teacher Training Agency's request to encourage others into teaching at this present time will be doing themselves, the person they encourage and the profession as a whole a disservice.

Only while the current shortage continues do teachers stand a chance of improved salary and of staving off the "flexible working", for which read shorter holidays, temporary contracts, regional pay awards, longer hours etc. that are currently being suggested.

It is in the interests of employers to encourage a large pool of well-qualified people that exceeds their needs so that they can dictate terms of employment and keep salaries to a minimum. One only needs to look at the worsened conditions of teachers in further education for proof of this. By encouraging others into the profession teachers assist the employers in this goal.

As a parent I have an interest in a well-qualified profession and adequately staffed schools. Market forces should not be the only factor that determines who becomes a teacher, but to pretend that such forces have no effect on salaries, as the Government persists in doing, is foolish.

Wherever there are shortages in any occupation employers need to make salaries and terms of employment attractive. Clearly at present they are not attractive enough.

It is interesting to compare the approach to teacher shortages with the shortage of programmers to fix the "millennium bug". I did not notice Tony Blair saying "No one forgets a good COBOL programmer" when launching his initiative to fix Year 2000 problems.

The way to solve the teacher shortage and attract more able teachers is quite simple; set the entry requirements for teacher training at between 20 and 24 points at A-level according to subject demand and then set salaries to attract those people. It will not be achieved by fiddling with pensions to prevent burnt out teachers from leaving, by a few "superteacher" grades that will create staffroom resentment and problems from parents if their children are not taught by a "superteacher", by leaving Chris Woodhead in place to harangue teachers, by moaning about local education authorities not doing their bit or by asking teachers to recruit a friend or pupil into a profession they are, on the whole, unhappy with themselves.

MICHAEL TROTT

1 Orchard Mead Inkberrow Worcestershire

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