TEACHERS, you have been warned. Having a Herculean capacity for hard work, the patience of a saint and the diplomatic skills of a UN ambassador may no longer be enough to keep you in a job.
No, to be truly effective in your calling, you need to look like Nicole Kidman.
That, at least is the rather disturbing upshot of an Italian study which found that one of the best ways a teacher can improve pupil performance is to . . .erm . . . look nice.
Nearly 40 per cent of 1,000 Italian pupils surveyed by the Rome-based Institute for Cross-curricular Studies said they were motivated by "attractive" teachers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the effect was most marked among boys.
Some three-quarters of the boys surveyed said they would go to school more willingly if their teacher had a "harmonious and reassuring appearance". The researchers also claim to have identified which subjects benefit most from the discreet charms of pretty teachers. Top of the list is Italian followed by mathematics. Even geography becomes more bearable for 48 per cent of pupils if the teacher's appearance and voice are pleasant.
For psychologist Rita Parsi, it is "absolutely normal" that children are influenced by teachers' appearance. "They have aesthetic reactions which are different from those of adults, but which certainly take into account external appearances," she explained.
The study also claims that an attractive teacher can cause attendance to rise by an astonishing 15 per cent. Perhaps the most surprising fact to emerge is the children's Identikit of the perfect teacher. She is of average height, with clear skin, red hair, green eyes and freckles. Anything more removed from the sensuous dark looks of the traditional Mediterranean beauty would be hard to imagine.
But if there are any Scottish or Irish lasses out there wishing to extend that last holiday in Tuscany, you know where you'll feel most wanted.