Negative views that make it so hard to fill all those empty desks

22nd June 2001 at 01:00
David Henderson reports on the Executive's plans to sell the profession to would-be teachers - and to keep them in it

RESEARCH carried out by System Three for the Executive over the past six months reveals strong views about teaching - very few of them positive.

Only 4 per cent of adults in a survey of 1,052 people interviewed last November thought teaching was very appealing while 38 per cent thought it moderately appealing. The majority (54 per cent) thought that teaching did not appeal as a career.

Fifty-five per cent recognised teaching could be a worthwhile career and 49 per cent agreed it could be an enjoyable job but these were overshadowed by the perceived drawbacks.

Eighty-three per cent said the pressures were a deterrent and 42 per cent thought teachers were not fairly paid for the job they do.

There was also common agreement that teachers did not receive the recognition and status they deserve. Some 66 per cent agreed that teachers were undervalued, 52 per cent that teaching is a thankless job and 49 per cent say the Government does not value teachers' work highly. Successive administrations ar therefore culprits in creating the negative views.

A similar survey of people considering teaching or already involved shows a strong perception that teaching is a vocation. Individuals have to have certain qualities and a specific desire to teach. The group revealed three important motivations: a strong wish to work with children, the desire to do an important and worthwhile job, and the desire to have a job that will provide daily interest and variety.

But potential teachers tell of friends, family and existing teachers trying to dissuade them. Teaching is often seen to be the "choice of last resort".

Potential recruits also believed there were insufficient places for them in training. Other barriers were worries about discipline, lack of career development and rewards for excellence, low pay and taking work home at night.

Secondary and urban teachers had more concerns about discipline whereas primary and rural teachers tended to be more content. Younger teachers had fewer complaints. Older teachers have seen more changes to their job and increases in less rewarding aspects such as administration.

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