Will new teachers last the course?

TEACHERS' problems with pay, hours and working conditions are such a talking point, that it comes as a refreshing surprise to find teaching singled out as a life-improving career.

By Tracey Sparling

TEACHERS' problems with pay, hours and working conditions are such a talking point, that it comes as a refreshing surprise to find teaching singled out as a life-improving career.

As tomorrow brings GCSE results and a new survey reveals the benefits of teaching where staff numbers have hit a 20-year high, Health and education editor Tracey Sparling meets a convert

to the profession and a teacher who's had enough.

MANAGER-turned-teacher Kevin Brown signs up to the theory that teaching has its attractions. At the age of 38, he has swapped careers and took his briefcase from his city office into the classroom, to educate the youth of today.

He's looking forward to the rewards of teaching, which were recognised by 45 per cent of people surveyed across East Anglia by the Teacher Training Agency.

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Nearly half the respondents chose teaching as the career which would help them improve their lifestyle, finances and relationships. The profession was more than twice as popular than the next choice, accountancy.

Half those recruited to teacher training now come from another career, like Kevin who resigned from Consignia in London last year.

He has just completed his teacher training with Suffolk County Council's School Centred Initial Teacher Training

programme based at Paul's Road, Ipswich, to specialise in primary school maths.

The father-of-three from east Ipswich said: "Working as a senior manager in London involved sitting in front of a screen all day and pen pushing. There was no instant feedback whereas in the classroom you can see things happening in front of you and that's a really good feeling.

"Teaching is something I've wanted to do for years, and it was just a question of being able to take a year out, financially. I got through the year on my savings and a £6,000 grant. The fact that money was available made a big difference and the flexibility of the training was the other bonus.

"Teaching doesn't involve a heavier workload than I did before or longer hours, although the £18,000 starting salary is quite a shock – I earned more than twice that, before. But teaching salaries do accelerate quickly, and after three years you can earn more than £30,000 so there is an incentive."

Mr Brown practised teaching at St Margaret's Primary School and also Rushmere Hall Primary School, where he starts a full-time job next month. His hopes reflect the TTA survey results, which show teaching is regarded as a modern, flexible career and one that can also meet peoples' financial expectations.

Mary Doherty, director of teacher supply and recruitment at the TTA said: "The teaching profession has changed considerably over the last few years and teachers can now expect competitive salaries,

better classroom support and great prospects.

"There are also the established benefits of teaching like good holidays, working with a subject you enjoy and the opportunity to make a contribution to society."

This month, schools minister David Miliband announced that teacher numbers hit a 20-year high, with

vacancies across the country shrinking.

Although recruitment is on the up, there are fears about retention.

Mr Miliband said: "The recruitment and retention of good quality teachers underpins our reform agenda. Without good teachers we will not transform our education system.

"Finding and keeping good teachers remains a problem in certain areas but we have made great gains since 1997 and we are still making progress. Schemes to attract teachers to

shortage subject areas, such as "golden hellos" are beginning to have an impact and from September new teachers in these areas can apply to have their student loans paid off.

"Of course it is not just about attracting more people into teaching. We want to keep them in our schools as well. We have listened to teacher's concerns about workload, poor discipline and high house prices and have acted on them in recent months."

Teaching has already lost its appeal for English teacher Michael Nott, 28, of Uvedale Gardens, Needham Market and he's planning to train for journalism instead.

He's not alone, as the latest drop out rate he heard for newly-qualified teachers is 40pc.

He spent all his savings training for a year at the Metropolitan University in Manchester and has worked in Japan, Needham Market and an inner city school in London.

He said: "I enjoyed working with children and I thought it would be a creative, dynanic job interacting with people, with quite good prospects."

But by the end of the autumn term of his first full-time job teaching teenagers in London, Michael knew things were not right.

He said: "I decided to give it until the end of the first year to give it a chance, but the workload was huge and everything was so prescriptive with no room for creativity.

"The government should pay teachers the same respect it does to other professions. The pay was not bad although it was not enough for the workload involved.

"Improving the workload is the only way the government is going to be able to improve teacher retention. I was working a minimum of 50 hours a week and there was always more to do. The holidays sound long and I can't complain, but I worked 30 hours a week over the summer holidays and Christmas and Easter were also spent working.

"Retention will not improve until the workload is addressed, more admin staff are employed to help out with non-teaching tasks like ordering stock, that takes hours, and more money is spent on education as a whole, not necessarily salaries."

Weblinks

www.dfes.gov.uk

www.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews

Fastfacts:

In a survey of 1,000 nine to 16-year-olds, two thought celebrity cook Jamie Oliver and footballers David Beckham or Michael Owen would help them learn.

They also wanted Cameron Diaz, Jim Carrey for drama, and Britney Spears or Kylie for music.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling scooped 60 per cent of the votes for favourite English teacher in the poll by Microsoft Encarta.

Musician Sting also used to be a teacher, as did Frank Skinner.

Seventy three per cent said Carol Vorderman would be a great maths teacher.

In 1999, the Graduate Teacher Training Register saw a 20 per cent drop in recruits.

Pay awards and the "golden hellos" which offer £5,000 for students entering postgraduate teacher training for certain subjects were failing to make an impact.

There are now more regular teachers in England, than any time since 1982. There are 419,600 full-time equivalent teachers, an increase of 9,400 since January 2001.

This is the biggest single year increase in any year since at least 1979.

The number of graduates applying to train as teachers in 2002/03 up to June, was 14 per cent (primary 18 pc, secondary 10 pc) higher than at the same time last year.

Advice is available from the Teaching Information Line on 0845 6000991.

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