Teacher talk

Ralph Surman is a teacher at Cantrell Primary School in Nottingham, and a member of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers
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The Independent Online

Did you have a good Christmas?

Absolutely. It's a magical time of the year. I spent it with my three girls. Two of them are very into Santa Claus, but I try to make them understand the real meaning.

What is the real meaning of Christmas for you?

The message that children have about Christmas is that it is just two weeks of self-indulgence. I've seen so many secondary schoolchildren out shopping when we've gone carol singing with our children. If you go to the big city stores you see the mania. That really worries me. People who buy most tend to have least. That's going to mean debt for some of our families, and that knocks on in the classrooms. The pressure is passed on to the children. The message should be that Christmas is about checking on your neighbour who lives on their own, not about presents.

What do you think of the government's proposal to extend the roles of classroom assistants?

I've just taken a group of children out this afternoon to a hospital with elderly and very sick patients. I took a little boy with autism who is partially sighted. I took 40 children with another teacher so we couldn't safely include this child, but his teaching assistant came along and supported him. When I see other professionals working alongside teachers this is a good thing. Teachers are highly paid professionals and you need teachers, there's no replacement. It's like teachers are doctors, and teaching assistants are the nurses. They must have training, and be there to support the teacher.

Why do so few men teach at primary school?

Teaching used often to be seen as a second job in the household. Men didn't see it as a career, at least in primary education. That has changed. The pay has improved. There are more opportunities for career progression, as the 50-year-olds disappear so career opportunities come faster.

Would you like to see more men teaching at primary schools?

At my school we have a male teaching assistant and teachers. There are four male role models, but we're not typical. I'd like to see more men teaching, it's a wonderful thing to see a nursery teacher who is a male role model.

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