Message on a beer mat

3rd November 2000 at 00:00
BEER mats, bus tickets and sandwich bags. These are the latest weapons in the battle to beat teacher shortages, writes Karen Thornton.

"Can you lift spirits?" drinkers are asked. For hungry office workers the question is "can you get your teeth into something more substantial?". And commuters are challenged to "find a better way to work".

The pound;7m recruitment campaign, launched this week by the Teacher Training Agency, turns on its head George Bernard Shaw's infamous maxim: "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches."

Developed by McCann-Erickson Manchester - whose other customers include supermarket chain Gateway, parcel service UPS, and kitchen and bathroom firms Magnet - it declares that "those who can, teach".

Adverts appeared in national newspapers this week, and will hit television and cinema screens at Christmas.

The TV advert draws inspiration from sources as diverse as the Teletubbies, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Indian Jones and the film The Piano.

It asks, for example, "can you explain multiplication?" over a Teletubby-style green field rapidly filling with rabbits, and "can you bring the dead back to life?" over a guillotine scene from the French revolution.

Ralph Tabberer, the agency's chief executive, said: "We want to highlight the fact that few jobs are as stimulating, fulfilling or as worthwhile as teaching."

But the new campaign was criticised by the teacher unions, which insist that higher pay for all teachers and improved working conditions are the key to getting more people to join the profession.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The agency has the impossible task of promoting a job which is plagued by excessive workload, low basic rates of pay and high levels of stress.

"In addition, the Government remains complacent about the recruitment and retention crisis in teaching."

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