X Factor's 'sexy schoolteacher' Danyl is not such a class act

28th August 2009 at 01:00

They are not three words that one would ordinarily expect to drive an audience wild. But when Danyl Johnson announced "I'm a teacher", he was met with spontaneous screams and applause.

The 27-year-old's appearance on the first episode of the new series of The X Factor has brought new glamour to the classroom. Mr Johnson's chisel-jawed smile alone was worthy of a small retainer from the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

If only he were actually a teacher.

Since Mr Johnson's audition on the reality television show on Saturday, his singing talent has been praised from Milton Keynes to Manitoba. His performance of the Beatles classic "With a Little Help from My Friends", described by Simon Cowell as "the best first audition I've ever heard", has had more than a million YouTube hits. Newspapers have described Danyl (pronounced "Daniel") as "the new Susan Boyle" and have tipped him to win the series.

In all this coverage Mr Johnson has been described as a teacher, which was how he, grinning cheekily, introduced himself to the judges. This was met with high-pitched audience screams.

An onscreen photograph showed him among a class of primary pupils. Mr Johnson said his pupils did not know he was auditioning. "It would be amazing to go back to school and make everyone proud," he said. Teaching suddenly seemed the sexiest profession on earth.

But Danyl is not employed by a school and there are doubts about whether or not he has qualified teacher status.

Instead, he works as a peripatetic drama and dance teacher, running occasional classes at weekend performing-arts schools near his Reading home.

These include Starmaker, the weekend drama school previously attended by stellar British actress Kate Winslet and by Mr Johnson himself.

Helen Woodford, who works for Starmaker, said: "He teaches at performing-arts schools around Reading but he hasn't done much with us over the last few months."

He is believed to teach more regularly at the School of the Arts in Windsor as well as running sporadic drama workshops at a primary school in Berkshire.

This loose definition of the profession has led to significant debate over what constitutes a teacher. On the website Mumsnet, one contributor said: "I reckon he was told to say he was a teacher as it changed our expectations of his performance. If he'd said 'drama coach', we'd not have been as surprised by his audition."

Another added: "I used to teach people to ride, but I wouldn't call myself a teacher."

John Bangs, the NUT's head of education, agrees it is unhelpful to confuse working with children with qualified teacher status.

"Clearly, he's proud to be a teacher," he said. "So why not become a proper teacher and use his talents to make a difference to children in schools?

"It's reality TV. So why not take it from a twinkle in his eye to reality? Then people can scream for real."

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