Education Quandary

My grandson wants to become a teacher. His parents warn him of low pay and difficult kids. Who's right?
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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

Bad news first. According to a recent study of public sector earnings, male teachers earn on average £70 less a week than they would in a comparable job in the private sector. Also, according to the Trades Union Congress, teachers do so much unpaid overtime that most would have to work for free until 22 March if they did it all at the start of the year. While teachers' pay is a lot better than it was - the average salary for a classroom teacher is around £32,000 - a young graduate would obviously do much better in banking or IT.

Then there are the pupils, who are definitely harder to handle. They can be restless and bolshy, and a lot of children do not have a clue about basic politeness and manners. The Association of School and College Leaders says that seven out of 10 heads are spending more time on behaviour than they were just five years ago.

So why do two-thirds of all teachers remain committed to teaching and happy at work, as a recent workplace poll discovered? Go into a lively, good school (and despite what you read in some papers, there are a lot about) and you will see at a glance that teaching offers variety, fun, challenge, opportunity, engagement, a sense of purpose, a people-centred environment and plenty of non-monetary rewards. It's a colourful, busy, ever-changing life that makes the average office look about as attractive as a Soviet work camp. These parents should back their grandson to the hilt, if teaching is what he wants to do.

Readers' advice

Teaching, in itself, is a fine and admirable job. But the nonsense around it lays people low. My wife loved her job as a teacher, but now she is head of her department she has to work all the hours going to get on top of the paperwork. There appear to be battalions of people in education whose only job is to make work for others to do. If I allowed this to happen in my company, I would go out of business.
Hugh Mills, Bath

My son went straight from university into a tough London comprehensive. He had his equipment stolen from a locked cupboard in his classroom, his moped set on fire, and the person who was supposed to be mentoring him spent six months away on sick leave. He struggled through two years, then moved on to a job in industrial training. To anyone thinking of going into teaching, I would say: take care which school you go to.
Mimi Allersden, Essex

I am a primary school teacher, and my husband was a head before he retired. Our daughter is training to be a nursery teacher and we are delighted. I can honestly say there isn't a better job in the world. Every September brings new children to get to know, and the rhythm of the school year sets its own pace. I can't imagine a working life without Christmas celebrations. Of course there are bad times, but that feeling when your children learn something new, or experience success, is indescribable.
Joyce Hammond, Leeds

Next week's quandary

My daughter's school sent a letter home at the beginning of the year saying what parents can and can't do to help with GCSE coursework. My daughter is now floundering so badly with her geography project that it is keeping her awake and making her ill. We could help her, but she says she will get into trouble and won't let us.

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce by next Monday, 13 March, at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax: 020-7005 2143; or e-mail: Please include details of your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser