Still getting satisfaction, amazingly

12th December 2003 at 00:00
What adjective is most often applied to the word "teachers" in news stories, staffrooms, and common parlance? Overworked? Demoralised? Falsely accused? The astonishing finding from this week's TESMori poll is that an overwhelming majority of teachers are satisfied, with their jobs that is - even after a quarter-of-a-century doing them.

The Government should be grateful that despite the many unpalatable changes it has forced on teachers in the past six years, they still feel enough of a vocation that job satisfaction starts at a stunning 96 per cent among new teachers, dropping to 78 per cent for those who've served more than 25 years. A swift and unscientific trawl of the web finds no happier group of workers anywhere. Satisfied teachers, eh? You heard it here first.

But there the good news stops for education and ministers. For the other clear finding is that- as with any other group of workers - money matters.

After their first year in the job, new teachers feel increasingly badly rewarded until they get the chance to cross the threshold onto the upper pay scale. Surely it is no coincidence that so many young teachers choose to quit the profession after four or five years, thus costing schools and taxpayers more in training, recruitment and retention?

These findings augment union warnings about the morale-sapping effects of the Government's hamfisted attempts to save money by arbitrarily limiting the numbers moving up the upper pay scale. This could prove a false economy, not only because it may encourage experienced, hard-to-replace staff to jump ship, but because it erodes the trust of those who stay. Even New Labour can't call it performance-related pay if some staff who perform well don't get it.

And that's the Government's final problem: fewer than one in three teachers is satisfied with its performance on education - a figure which is not likely to improve if experienced staff feel they are being taken for a ride. And if teachers don't tell restive taxpayers that their money is making schools better, who will?

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