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The public image of teachers has changed dramatically, writes Susan MacDonald

People's impressions of education have come a long way from the 1930s head of John Mortimer's A Voyage Round My Father. It's the beginning of term and he stands on the platform scowling down at the boys and bellows: "We are here to teach you not to eat peas with your knife and not to clean your fingernails with a bus ticket."

Today teachers work extremely hard to create lessons that capture pupils'

imagination and forge good relationships with them in a more complex profession. Newly qualified teachers quickly discover how difficult that can be. An extreme example was described by one 22-year-old in her first teaching job at an inner London school: "The majority of my class left the room as I entered and started charging round the school. I dashed after them trying to bring them back. I had been given a buzzer to press to summon help, but other teachers were caught up in their own problems and no one came.

"I remembered the head told me not to worry too much unless they headed for the roof. So I took preventative action and locked the fire escape door to the roof before they got there and left them to it, returning to my classroom to teach the few who were still there."

Not the kind of story that occurs in every school thanks to the hard work put in, and one that is hardly likely to feature in the latest series of Channel 4's Teachers, which takes us into another realm. The Observer TV critic calls it a drama about a group of feckless and extremely silly teachers. Its producer says it works because "it's a show about people, not about a job".

So that's all right, then. However, it should bring a wry grin to the face of teachers themselves - and its late slot means they should find time to watch it between lugging work home after late meetings and slumping into bed.

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