Teachers are valued second only to doctors in terms of their value to society, a new survey has found. They are also rated as highly influential, with only parents having more effect on people's attitudes and choices.
In the National Opinion Poll survey, commissioned by the Teacher Training Agency, nearly 2,000 respondents were asked to compare teachers with nine other professions, including lawyers, accountants, industrial workers, journalists, the armed forces and the emergency services.
More than 80 per cent placed doctors at the head of the list while teachers were mentioned by the second largest group (59 per cent), slightly ahead of the emergency services.
Teaching was also rated highly for its job satisfaction, but the other professions did better in terms of the personal rewards and the career development they offer.
Among the young people questioned, parents emerged as the most influential people, mentioned by 82 per cent. Teachers (41 per cent) and friends (40 per cent) were next down the list.
When teaching was compared with all other employment, nearly nine out of 10 respondents agreed that "teaching is a rewarding profession which provides personal satisfaction".
Just over half (56 per cent) agreed that teaching offers good financial rewards; there was an even split on the question of whether or not teaching offers a good career development.
More than two-thirds disagreed with the statement that "teaching is a low-status profession"; while 85 per cent rejected the view that "teaching is a soft option".
Those questioned were not good at estimating salaries. Half of them believed that the headteacher of a medium-sized secondary school would earn a maximum salary of Pounds 25,000. The largest group placed it between Pounds 16, 000 and Pounds 25,000.
More than one-fifth of adults (22 per cent) claimed to have considered teaching as a profession.
The responses showed some socio-economic divisions, with groups A and B more likely (68 per cent) to say that teachers are of the most value to society. This view was shared with fewer than half of those in groups D and E.
People at the upper end of the economic scale are also more likely to look down on teachers' pay and conditions. Groups A and B are less likely to think that teachers enjoy status in their community or that they can look forward to effective career development. The ABC1 group also thinks the least favourably about teachers' financial rewards.