PAUL Silvester realised that the time had come to quit when he was required to list his pupils' hobbies for the secondary schools they will join in September.
For most of them he couldn't. He had worked so hard on teaching the curriculum laid down by the Government, and on reaching the standards it had set, that something essential had disappeared. "I hadn't had time to ask them," he says.
Next month, the Hampshire deputy head will start work in a local pub, ending 15 years as a teacher. He won't be alone - five of the 12 teachers at Balksbury junior school in Andover have decided enough is enough.
One has gone travelling, another is still jobless, while a third is taking maternity leave and unlikely to return full-time. A fourth is cutting her hours back to just one day a week.
Paul says he came into teaching believing he could use a child's interests to spark a ove of learning, to teach the 3Rs and develop essential social, communication and learning skills.
Now, he sees children turned off education at an ever-earlier age - the result of too much pressure and an inappropriate curriculum. The result is a breakdown in discipline.
"The most important thing about primary school is that relationship between teacher and pupil and that relationship has almost completely broken down."
The message of demoralisation will be taken forcefully to the General Teaching Council. Balksbury's head, Rosemary Clarke, is a teachers' representative - winner of the highest vote in April's ballot.
She praised all her leaving teachers but said: "People just feel under pressure. There are still too many government initiatives."
Posts have proved hard to fill, with newly-qualified teachers reluctant to live in expensive Hampshire.