TEACHERS are flocking to lonely hearts agencies and "speed-dating" nights because their jobs leave them too tired to date.
Long working hours and an increasing shortage of men in the classroom means that the closest many teachers - and especially women - will come to the thrill of romance today may be a Valentine's card from an admiring pupil.
Thousands of teachers have signed up to agencies in the hope that professional matchmakers will track down potential partners. Teachers are also at the forefront of the speed-dating phenomenon that started in New York and is now sweeping the UK.
Ben Tisdell, who co-founded Speed Dater, which organises social events where single people have several three-minute "dates" in an evening, said:
"Teachers have caught on very quickly because they are so time poor - and this is the perfect way to meet a lot of men in the shortest possible time."
Mary Balfour, whose introduction agency Drawing Down the Moon is aimed at "educated, cultured and creative" types, says that demand from women teachers is so high that she is now thinking of setting up a website just for them.
Ms Balfour, herself an ex-teacher, said: "The problem is that teaching is seen as an unglamorous profession in this country - poorly paid and overworked."
Margaret (who did not wish to give her surname), a 45-year-old primary teacher from Burnley, Lancs, signed with Club Sirius following the break-up of her 20-year marriage.
She said: "It would be impossible to meet the right person without an agency. The first one I tried did not vet the applicants, so the dates were often disastrous. One of the men admitted he was married."
Kate Corbett, who runs Club Sirius, says teachers make up 14 per cent of the 8,500 clients on her books - the biggest professional grouping after lawyers. They are also one of the most "romantic" groups.
Ms Corbett said: "Teachers are gregarious, very romantic and desperate to get out and meet people, but they just don't get the chance."
Steve McGarvie, 26, music teacher at Teesdale school, Darlington, believes romance is "out of the question" in term-time.
"Some people ask me why I haven't been snapped up yet, as a single man in a predominantly female profession. But I simply don't have the time during term for any socialising. I make up for it in the summer holidays, though, so perhaps Valentine's Day could be moved to August - then teachers could get slushy too."
But Chris Moss and Elizabeth Tennant show teachers do not have to miss out on Valentine's Day romance. A year ago today, Chris, an art teacher at Richmond school, north Yorkshire, took his then girlfriend for a walk in torrential rain to look at blue plaques commemorating the town's history.
Elizabeth, a drama teacher at Bristol grammar, was unimpressed until she read: "At this place Elizabeth Tennant, a resident of Bristol, agreed to a long-awaited proposal from Chris Moss, an artist living in Richmond."
Now happily married, Chris said: "You can always find time for a little romance if you really want to."
www.speeddater.co.uk; www.drawingdownthemoon.co.uk; and www.clubsirius.co.uk
Friday, 19 Teacher, 12