Fitting rewards are long overdue;School Management

29th October 1999 at 01:00
The best classroom teachers deserve top salaries and Oscars, argues satisfied parent Helen McKenzie

My son is very fond of school at present, particularly on Tuesdays and Fridays when he receives his two periods of religious education. It is not that he has suddenly become very religious, or even studious. No, my son is finding school more rewarding than usual because of a teacher.

The teacher is Ms Smith, or so I will call her. My son assures me she is always interesting, cheerful and friendly. "She treats us like adults and asks our opinion on important issues," he constantly reminds me. "Everyone in the class likes Ms Smith, even the ones who don't say or do very much in other classes".

From my son's account it is evident that Ms Smith is a teacher who demands good manners and considerate behaviour from her classes. In return she gives the pupils the respect they deserve.

It is easy to detect from Ms Smith's regular homework that this is a teacher who works hard to create high quality teaching resources. Her homework assignments are well thought out and encourage pupils to think imaginatively and creatively.

Ms Smith has transformed religious education from one of the school's least popular subjects to one of its most popular. Last year at least five senior pupils were so inspired by Ms Smith that they chose to continue their study of world religions at university.

Much of her popularity stems from the help and attention she gives her pupils. "Our jotters are always marked with useful comments," my son informs me. "And if we do particularly good work, she draws a smiling face. Ms Smith really does care about us." The fact that a 13-year-old can identify enthusiasm and a caring attitude provides further testament to Ms Smith's impressive character.

I finally met Ms Smith at the school's parents' evening. She was as my son described: knowledgeable, friendly, cheerful and very enthusiastic about her subject and about the pupils she taught. It was a pleasure meeting and speaking with her.

After the meeting, I sought out the school's headteacher to compliment him on appointing such an effective and popular teacher. He smiled and said that Ms Smith was one of the finest classroom practitioners he had ever encountered - andhe hoped the school could hold on to her.

The education system's promotion system, the headteacher explained, involves taking the best teachers out of the classroom and burdening them with administrative duties and general discipline matters. "The only avenue for career advancement," he said, "involves giving up classroom work for non-teaching duties. As a headteacher Ms Smith probably wouldn't do any teaching at all."

It is a ridiculous system of career advancement which compels talented classroom teachers to forfeit the very job they are good at to obtain their profession's highest salaries and status.

As a parent I would like to endorse the idea of paying our best teachers higher salaries to stay in the classroom. I also support the idea of paying particularly skillful and effective teachers salaries which are commensurate with their talents.

I reckon a teacher of Ms Smith's calibre is worth, at the very least, pound;50,000 a year.

While on holiday in England in July, I watched the televised "Oscars" for outstanding teachers, which have been debated by John MacBeath and Alan McLean in TES Scotland over the past month. It was an informative and entertaining programme, and it highlighted many of the good things that take place in schools. The awards' ceremony also provided much deserved recognition - and cash rewards - to teachers who made a particularly outstanding contribution to their profession.

Unlike Alan McLean, I believe Scottish teachers would benefit from a similar awards' scheme. With so much media attention focussing on the negative aspects of Scottish education, it would be useful to have an additional means of highlighting the many examples of good practice which can be found in our schools. Public recognition and a decent salary are long overdue for those teachers who make such a positive impact on young people's lives.

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