Knight work, if you can get it

21st January 2005 at 00:00
Tod slays dragons and vanquishes the enemy. His finely chiselled features strike fear into opposition forces, joy into the hearts of adoring women.

But, frankly, none of that is quite as much fun as teaching.

Tod, a newly-qualified teacher who regrets choosing a career as a gladiator over the classroom, is the hero of a job advert placed in The TES by staff at Preston Manor high, in Brent, north London.

The school's advert for NQTs uses a turn-of-the century picture of a knight, gazing dramatically into the middle distance. A sword in one hand, a shield strapped across his bare chest, he rests one foot on the neck of a vanquished soldier.

The accompanying caption highlights Tod's folly in choosing a life of derring-do over teaching. "Tod was an NQT," it reads. "He somehow felt he had missed a golden opportunity with Preston Manor."

Brian Green, the school's designer, found Tod among an archive of Victorian and Edwardian images. "People are stuck in jobs where they clock in and out," he said. "Being a white knight is just another job. But Preston Manor is rewarding and challenging. It's like running away to the circus, only you're actually going into a sensible job."

Andrea Berkeley, Preston Manor's head, hopes that Tod will prove effective in the battleground of teacher recruitment.

"It's really important that our teachers have a sense of humour," she said.

"I hope the advert will attract those kinds of people. I don't want anybody who is too po-faced," said Ms Berkeley.

Steve Wallman, history teacher, believes that the advert fairly captures the school spirit.

"I don't often stand with my foot on a child," he said.

"And I haven't seen anyone wearing thigh-length boots. But some teachers do have very unusual dress sense. And any teacher going into school has to have a heroic nature."

But, in true hero mode, Tod had to overcome serious competition from four other draft adverts.

Two highlighted the appeal of teaching over more mundane occupations, showing two men in bowler hats carrying briefcases, and a 1950s doctor and nurse. Another showed a man looking through binoculars, with the caption "Preston Manor are looking for NQTs."

One used a picture from the annual school pantomime. "That was rejected because the male staff were in drag," said Ms Berkeley. "We thought it might give the wrong impression."

She is not concerned that women will be deterred from applying by Tod's unequivocal masculinity.

"He's quite dishy-looking, isn't he?" she said. "Women will think there might be eligible young men on the staff. We are trying to attract male teachers. Looking like a gladiator is not part of the job requirement - though it would be nice."

Platform 21

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