Give us a medal for morale

31st January 1997 at 00:00
The honours system is failing to reward ordinary teachers, says Graham Stowell

Sitting down on New Year's Eve to browse through this year's Christmas present - a copy of Whitaker's Almanack - I turned to the education section and discovered that there are 452,000 teachers employed in the public sector.

I discarded Whitaker's to concentrate on the newspaper which headlined the new year's honours' list. Drawn to the inside pages, I started to scan the recipients. For an almanac junkie this is compulsive behaviour but I tired before long and put the paper aside having failed to recognise anybody who had been "recognised". I forgot about it until The TES arrived with its digest of educational "worthies". Once again I found myself scanning the columns.

Unsurprisingly, the "great and good" are rewarded. In among the OBEs and MBEs there is a sprink-ling of heads. There are a large number of a group which can best be categorised as educationists.

Of course, John Major has professed his intention of rewarding ordinary people in ordinary jobs and there are a few of these "unsung heroes". There are awards for school secretaries, dining hall assistants and the inevitable "mop and lollipop" awards. No one would wish to begrudge any of these individuals their awards but where are the medals for ordinary classroom teachers? If the Prime Minister is so keen to raise the status of teaching then he could turn his attention to this.

I'm sure there are compelling reasons for not increasing the number of so-called gongs since to do so would devalue the "currency", and I suppose a few extra medals wouldn't go far. Perhaps for many teachers the "pat on the back award" - often self-administered - is as much as they aspire to and expect.

One hopes that once a General Council of Teachers has been established it will address questions of status and morale. It might include the inauguration of a long service or meritorious service award. In the meantime, local authorities might think about recognising the service of teachers in a similar way. Such recognition would not be costly but could help raise the morale and status of the profession.

Graham Stowell teaches economics, politics and business studies at The Judd School, Tonbridge, Kent

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