Survey shows teachers are a 'unique breed' who care less about cash than other professionals and do the job for its own sake. Graeme Paton reports
It's not a bad life being a teacher. The average salary is around Pounds 32,000, more than 80 per cent are on the property ladder and one in 10 owns a second home.
But the financial perks are not the main reason most teachers enter the profession. According to a TES survey, the overwhelming majority have been lured into the classroom by the promise of an interesting job and the chance to work with children.
And, despite evidence that workload is on the increase, some two-thirds say that they are likely to remain teachers for life.
Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham university, said the survey reflected previous research that showed teachers are a unique breed, with less interest in material benefits than other professionals.
"Teachers are generally people who want to work with other people," he said.
"In comparison with many other professions the external, material rewards, tend to be much less of an issue. It explains why, for example, it is hard to find physics teachers, because physics is not really a 'people subject', it is more about impersonal patterns."
In total, 41 per cent said the lure of a varied and interesting job was the main reason for entering teaching, with 35 per cent saying they wanted to work with children. Only 7 per cent admitted the family-friendly hours and holidays attracted them into the classroom and 2 per cent were drawn by the decent starting salary.
However, just under half admitted that pay and hours were key secondary factors behind a teaching career.
Alex Pickett, 27, who has taught at Mount Pleasant junior school, Southampton, for three years, said: "I do wish there was more time, but I had boring nine-to-five jobs before, whereas this job is good fun at the end of the day."
The poll of 500 state and private school teachers in England and Wales, carried out by FDS International in November and December, found that 71 per cent entered the profession because they felt they had a vocation to teach. Women were more likely to believe that teaching was their true vocation, with 75 per cent saying it was, compared to 64 per cent of men.
Teachers under 30 were less likely to admit that teaching was their calling in life, perhaps reflecting the high number of teachers who leave the profession in the first five years.
For the vast majority the reality of the classroom does not blunt their dedication, with more than four out of five saying they continue to view their chosen career as a vocation.
The survey, reflecting recent recruitment campaigns run by the Training and Development Agency for Schools, also shows that more people are entering the profession later in life. A third of secondary and a fifth of primary teachers had other careers before teaching. One in six of these had come from backgrounds in banking and finance, followed by engineering, retail and the civil service or local government.
Carol Adams, general secretary of the General Teaching Council, said:
"Increasingly, we are finding that teachers have done other jobs and are looking for the intrinsic reward of doing something that contributes towards society, perhaps rather than careers motivated by financial gain, either for themselves or their companies."
The survey shows that two-thirds of teachers aged under 30 said that the salary, prospects and conditions played a part in their career choice.
However, only 43 per cent of those over 50 admitted this was a factor in their decision to enter teaching. This appears to highlight the improvement in teachers' pay in recent years.
Only one in 10 teachers said their decision to enter the profession was influenced by an inability to think of any other suitable career.
Almost half of the women surveyed said that working with children rather than teaching a subject was the main motivation behind teaching, perhaps explaining the greater number of female teachers in primary schools.