Quite good, but not top of the class

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
Are teachers likely to be more middle class than their pupils?

Are teachers likely to be more middle class than their pupils?

Yes. Figures for the social class background of teachers are sketchy - only a third of those asked the question at the start of their teacher training give an answer.

Higher Education Statistics Agency data, however, suggest nearly 16 per cent of those on teacher training courses were from families with higher managerial and professional occupations. Around 30 per cent were of lower managerial and professional backgrounds and a further 17 per cent had families with intermediate occupations, such as fireman. And 8 per cent had parents who were "small employers". All these are significantly above the national averages.

In contrast, only 6 per cent were from lower supervisory and technical backgrounds, 6 per cent had parents who did routine occupations such as refuse collector, and only 0.2 per cent came from families who had never worked or were long-term unemployed - all below the national averages.

What class are teachers, officially?

Schoolteachers sit alongside nurses, journalists, actors and police sergeants in Class 2 of the National Statistics socio-economic classification. Doctors, lawyers, dentists and university professors top Class 1.

Which socio-economic group can they look down on?

Class 3, which includes firemen, cabin crew, and photographers.

Is the class profile of school staff changing?

John Howson, a recruitment expert, predicts an increase in the numbers of working class employees in schools, the result of an ever-growing reliance on support staff and the growth in vocational subjects with diplomas.


Kathryn Dodd, 58, finds her working class background useful as a sociology teacher in inner city London. Growing up as one of seven children of a window cleaner in Sheffield's down-at-heel Pitsmoor area, she feels she can be a role-model. Although her own classes have not had the advantage of a grammar school education, as she did, she is keen to be an inspiration to pupils at Camden School for Girls.

"I make it very clear to my pupils about my background and it works, particularly for the working class white and Bangladeshi girls. I speak their language, because I'm not posh," said Ms Dodd.

"Of course, I do now have the cultural capital of the middle class on my doorstep. I like the theatre and I read The Guardian."

And Ms Dodd is keen to get pupils to do well for themselves without imposing overtly middle class values.

"I try to raise expectations in the classroom, but I don't tell them there's only one path to being fulfilled," she said.

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