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Those who can, earn

EVEN the worst storm of the decade could not dampen the celebration of outstanding teaching at this week's Teaching Awards ceremony. How the infectious enthusiasm and throat-catching emotions evoked by this year's award winners will translate to television remains to be seen (BBC1 at 4.20pm on Sunday - - don't miss it).

But no one who was there at the Dome could fail to be moved by the dedication and skill of lifetime achievement winner Catherine Ann Samuel; the energy and ebullience of music (and football) teacher Catherine Roberts; the sheer guts of Mary Campbell, the special needs teacher who has refused to allow confinement to a wheelchair - let alone workload, league tables or endless Government diktat - to keep her from the work she loves; and all the others, celebrated in this week's Friday magazine, dazed by praise for doing what they regard as the best job in the world.

The Teacher Training Agency's latest recruitment campaign also kicked off this week under the slightly risky slogan, "Those who can, teach". This emphasises the challenges of the profession rather than the rewards. But Lord Puttnam, inspired instigator of the Oscar-style awards an now chairman of the General Teaching Council, has demonstrated far more vividly both the attractions of the job and the debt we owe to those who accept that challenge.

Perhaps this will also make it easier to ensure that the crucial role played by teachers is properly recognised through the extrinsic rewards they receive as well as the intrinsic ones highlighted this week at the Dome. Even the most dedicated teachers need to provide for the comfort and welfare of their families and their own periodic revitalisation.

Those whose job it is to ensure there are enough teachers need to recognise the strong competition from other higher-paid knowledge-based industries. Governments themselves have raised the cost of attracting able young people into public service by forcing them to contribute to their own higher education. Perhaps that is one reason a third of those going into teaching at present are over 30.

Even the most starry-eyed idealists among today's young graduates contemplate a future already encumbered by a large debt. They are bound to seek an adequate and guaranteed return on such investment. Teachers' pay review body please note.

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