16th March 2001 at 00:00
I am glad to see incentives for graduates to train as teachers. But what about those of us who have been teaching for a few years? I've been in the classroom for two years and feel I am being left out and undervalued.

I have an upper second class degree and a Masters. But my qualifications seem to be worth nothing. "Education, education education" was Labour's catchcry at the last election. Yet I am being punished for being well educated, for using my talents and knowledge. Having all these qualifications simply means I have more debts to pay.

If the best, most highly qualified graduates are to be attracted - and, more to the point, retained - something needs to be done.

I have to wait several years before I am eligible for performance-related pay, so what happens in the meantime?

New teachers are perhaps the most enthsiastic, the most dedicated, those most likely to teach in shortage areas. But we are also the most in debt. We cannot afford homes - every penny I earn is spent on basic living expenses. I am unable to save, yet work up to 50 hours a week.

What has kept me in the profession? The love of my subject and the unique chance I am given to work with young adults. But goodwill does not pay the bills, so I may be forced to look for another job.

I looked to Labour to help teachers, but the latest measures only paper over the cracks. Once these new teachers have had their incentives and their loans paid off, they will, like many of us, realise that the wages are not equivalent to the work we do.

I would be better off working in a supermarket.

Jane Cohring teaches geography at Regents Park girls' school in Southampton

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