No one forgets a waste of cash

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
THE admission in The TES by Ralph Tabberer, newly-appointed head of the Teacher Training Agency, and a thoroughly good chap, that the pound;10 million "No one forgets a good teacher" recruitment initiative was a flop did not surprise me.

The volume of enquiries increased, while the numbers of people actually applying to train moved sharply down.

Who would sign up as a kamikaze pilot simply in response to a "No one forgets a good suicide" cinema advert? Advertisers may believe they can spin an alluring image out of anything, but discerning punters always look at the reality behind the rhetoric.

This hapless and costly advertising campaign always reminded me of the one run by the armed forces a few years ago. Young lads were shown playing football, sunbathing on exotic beaches, laughing happily with their mates. There was just one significant omission. No one ever got shot. It was the John Wayne image of warfare: lob a couple of grenades and all the bad guys surrender. Then collect your medal and live for ever.

Making the current generation of teachers happier at their work is much more likely to boost enrolment than expensive film puffs. Cheerful practitioners are better recruiters than slick advertising copy, by real-life example, rather than through exhortation.

It was a shock, therefore, to discover that the next piece of cinematic recruitment wizardry would be a campaign "stressing that teaching offered the chance to develop skills that might be useful in another career later in life".

Come again? Have I got this bowed head recruitment strategy right? Are we going to train people for the teaching profession, at great public expense, merely to facilitate escape from it at the earliest opportunity? No one forgets a good laugh.

Perhaps the idea has been pinched from other professions.

"Train as a pickpocket. Learn to remove cash from people's wallet without them even noticing it. Then, when you're fed up with outdoor street life, move to a plush warm office and become an accountant."

Maybe there was a successful recruiting campaign for surgeons which said: "What i more, if your scalpel keeps slipping then don't worry.

"As your ex-patients are wheeled away you can always pop next door and become a fullyfledged mortuary attendant instead." I must have missed it.

This could be the start of a novel approach. All too often people have been ready to assert that anyone could teach. No great skill was involved, just a bit of knowledge and common sense. John Patten's ill-fated 'mum's army' idea assumed that any parent can teach young children.

The notion of elastic skills is the logical corollary of this touching faith in professional versatility: if anyone can teach, then teachers can do anything. Brilliant.

Let's go for it. "You've put up with crap for years? Why not join an advertising agency and write it instead?" Simple really.

In future, therefore, TTA will stand for Teacher Transfer Agency. Any teacher seeking a new career will need to contact the Escapes Division to be given advice about how to utilise elsewhere skills and experience garnered in school. There are numerous possibilities.

Have you ever had your parentage questioned or been called by names normally applied to

various parts of the human reproductive system?

No problem. Buy yourself a whistle, put on a black uniform and become a football referee.

Are you a dab hand at dealing with stroppy parents, or keeping out undesirables at the school disco? Try being a nightclub bouncer.

Can you now put ticks in boxes in your sleep? Why not dedicate the whole of your life to boxes, instead of only part of it? Become a shelf stacker at your local supermarket.

Are you a headteacher dealing successfully with demoralised colleagues who say they feel completely powerless?

Turn your skill at helping the impotent into a new career. Sign up as a sex counsellor.

So look out for the next multi-million pound cinema recruitment campaign, as you munch your popcorn. "Why not train as a teacher?" the seductive voiceover will croon.

"Then, one lucky day, you can bugger off to a decent job elsewhere".

No one forgets a good waste of public money.

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