Phew, no PRs at teachers' Oscars

27th March 1998 at 00:00
Glitzy award ceremonies, back-stabbing rivalry, and endless thank-you speeches are more in keeping with Oscars than education. But dig out that designer frock because, if the Government's standards task force has its way, the age of the celebrity teacher may be upon us.

Standards chief Michael Barber told primary heads last week that a "dramatic and exciting" event was just around the corner.

Film director Lord Puttnam has been asked to find a "really high profile way of recognising teacher success". It's believed he favours an annual Oscars-type ceremony, combining awards for outstanding teaching with a dose of glitz.

But would it work? Not if the country's PR industry is put in charge, it seems. Obsessed with celebrities and clothes, and burdened with an old-fashioned stereotype of bearded, corduroy-clad teachers, the country's image-makers are woefully behind the times.

Tracy Smallacombe is director for celebrity PR firm Carol Hayes and Associates. She plans swanky bashes for high-profile clients including Planet Hollywood.

She says: "Teachers are paid so lowly for the vital work they do, I do think an event would be good. But the whole thing could be a disaster - I mean it's not like the average teacher can whip out their latest Versace. We could see some real fashion faux-pas.

"I'd find a fashion house or department store to sponsor the event and dress the winners. I doubt it would be Versace though - more likely a high-street store."

Matthew Turner at Jori White PR is even less generous: "Puttnam's got pulling power, but I doubt even he could get celebrities on board. My goal would be to keep the client happy - which would be the Government. So we'd want no radical acceptance speeches attacking the education system.

"Pipes, hush puppies and tweed jackets are absolute no no. Oh, and I'd ask them to avoid wearing chalk-stained trousers.

"Actually, it might work better if we hype up the non-fashion element. Teacher Chic - unkempt beards and woolly cardies. Teacher Chic could replace cool Britannia. Then again, it's not likely is it?" However, Jaqui Richardson, who organises hotel and restaurant openings, says: "Lots of teachers have a fantastic sense of dress and style, so they could handle it. They are used to events like parents' evenings, where it's important to look good."

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