Bright graduates shun finance for careers in the classroom

Applicants see teaching as contributing to society
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The Independent Online

The credit crunch is helping to produce a new generation with a greater sense of moral purpose, a headteachers' leader said yesterday. Young people are turning their backs on the pursuit of money-making careers, John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the annual conference of secondary school heads.

"What gets these people out of bed in the morning is the desire to raise the achievements of young people, to increase their opportunities and ensure that they make the most of them," Dr Dunford added.

He was speaking as the latest figures from the Government's Training and Development Agency, which is responsible for teacher recruitment, showed the biggest boom in teacher recruitment for years. The number of enquiries about teaching as a career has shot up 45 per cent in one year. In terms of actual applications, the number of applicants wanting to train to be a maths teacher – traditionally a shortage subject – is up 25 per cent.

"Young people who until recently headed straight from university to the City to make their fortune are questioning whether there is any moral purpose in that," Dr Dunford added.

"We must hope that the credit crunch will bring change not only in the value of our shares but in the values of our society: a change from the foolishness of toxic loans and the selfishness of huge bonuses to a stronger recognition of our shared professional commitment to the welfare and life opportunities of others," he said.

His comments were echoed by Professor Sir Michael Barber, a former head of policy at 10 Downing Street under Tony Blair, who similarly told the conference that he believed the economic crisis "brings the opportunity to go back to the real values that underpin our society".

In a sideswipe at Government attempts to control what goes on in schools, Dr Dunford also suggested that "nobody should be allowed to become an education minister without first being a teacher for a month ... and being a head for a month".

He also revealed reservations about the way the Government's flagship diplomas were being introduced in schools and colleges. The first five – in subject areas ranging from engineering to leisure and tourism – were launched in September. They were supposed to bridge the divide between academic and vocational qualifications – offering a mixture of the two to pupils, he said.

"That is not an easy message to sell to potential diploma candidates and their parents," he said. "Nor is it proving easy to sell to higher education and employers – among whom the fickle support of the CBI has been particularly disappointing." The CBI originally supported the idea but then withdrew support for three academic diplomas, in science, languages and the humanities, on the grounds that these topics were covered by A-levels.