No one forgets a good teacher . . .

17th October 1997 at 01:00
. . . but everyone forgot to mention pay. Biddy Passmore and Dorothy Lepkowska report on this week's launch of the Government's recruitment drive.

There were coffee and croissants, tinkling piano music and soft lights at Tuesday's launch of the Government's teacher recruitment drive.

There was a pithy slogan - "No one forgets a good teacher" - and Lord Puttnam, Sir Terence Conran and singer Skin there to prove it.

There was Eric Anderson, formerly of Fettes School and later head of Eton, to show that no teacher forgets a good pupil either, especially if he goes on to become Prime Minister.

There was Anthea Millett of the Teacher Training Agency saying that teaching was "without a doubt" the most important profession. "Without it," she said simply, "there would be no other professions." And there were two short advertisements, to be shown from today in 2,000 cinemas in England and Wales, in which celebrities nominate their favourite teachers.

But, perhaps uniquely in the launch of a professional recruitment drive, there was no mention of pay. Only union leader Nigel de Gruchy, hovering on the edge of the proceedings like a jovial bad fairy, added his own neat envoi to the Government's slogan. "No one forgets a good teacher," said his statement, "they just forget to pay herhim well."

The other teaching unions were not slow to back up the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. All wish the Government well in its five-year campaign to attract more, and better qualified, recruits into teaching. But all point to uncompetitive salaries as a major obstacle to its success.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, pointed out that starting salaries for graduate teachers were now some Pounds 1,800 less than those available to graduates elsewhere (Pounds 14,200, compared with Pounds 16,000). "After five years," he added, "a teacher's salary will have risen by a third but the salary of a graduate who chooses another profession will have risen more than 50 per cent."

The Government has opted for status as the profession's selling-point, in part by making it harder to get in. Anthea Millett set out the five goals the TTA has set itself, to be achieved by 2002: * teaching should be one of the top three professions that graduates want to join (a MORI poll of 1,500 final-year students in 1995 found it ranked fifth, after media, marketing, medicine and law); * the average A-level grades of those entering undergraduate teacher-training courses should be at least as high as the average for all courses (that means raising it from its present level of a C and two Ds to at least three Cs); * 95 per cent of postgraduate entrants to teacher training should have at least a second-class honours degree (the present figure is 88 per cent; the target announced earlier in the summer that 80 per cent of entrants should have at least an upper second has been dropped as unrealistic); * there should be at least two applicants for every secondary training place (only history is currently in this happy position; design and technology attracts only 4 applicants for every 10 places); * there should be at least three applicants for every primary training place (currently 2.3).

The Pounds 1.5 million advertising campaign, launched at the new British Library in London on Tuesday, is the first part of a Pounds 10m drive that will also involve new courses for teachers to switch directly to teaching from other careers and for former teachers to return to the classroom - as well as the first professional Web site.

But PR guru Max Clifford thought the choice of celebrities featured in the advertisements was wide of the mark.

"You have to look at what inspires young people now," he said. "I would say it is Glenn Hoddle, Richard Branson, or Simon Fuller, the manager of the Spice Girls, or the actor Robert Carlyle, because The Full Monty is all the rage right now.

Karen Evett, director of PR Matters International Ltd, said the way to entice more high-calibre candidates into teaching was to make the profession more glamorous.

"Being a chef is now a job that is taken seriously because of the high public profile enjoyed by a few chefs," she said. "The same could be done with teaching, for example by getting key headteachers onto discussion programmes, not just to talk about their jobs but about their experiences of working with children."

Bridget Oatridge, director of Melridge Image Consultants, thought teachers could do more themselves to promote an image that attracts high-fliers.

"The way one looks, speaks and dresses is terribly important because first impressions do stick," she said. "Jackets are very important for both men and women because they create a business-like image. Men do not need to wear suits in the classroom, but I think a tie is a must, and for women slacks are alright or a skirt with a blouse."

Sue Greener, a partner with Sussex-based Positive Images, said she would seek to turn around the myth that those who can do and those who can't, teach.

"Our message would be if you can't teach, then you should look at a different career option."

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