Education Quandary

'My daughter says her teachers are as good as those who win awards. Why do they have awards? Doctors and nurses don't get them'
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Hilary's advice

Actually, you're wrong. A new nursing award is in the process of being set up, and there is at least one national award for doctors. Of course, as your daughter says, such things are, essentially, absurd. No one can really be the best primary-school teacher in the country, or the best school governor. There are too many different ways of doing these complex jobs.

Also, jobs in schools are so much a matter of teamwork that you couldn't possibly wave aloft, say, a best-head-teacher award without paying tribute to the colleagues who have helped you to win it.

Having said that, there are thousands of mediocre teachers, and not that many outstanding ones. So, if highlighting the achievements of those who go that extra mile helps to inspire others, then a system of national awards is worthwhile. It also means that, for a short time, the media is prompted to report good things about schools, instead of all the bad things that, unfairly, dominate the rest of the year.

If your daughter's teachers are as good as those she saw on TV, suggest that she nominates them for next year's awards. The more good teachers are put forward, the more the awards will be a celebration of the best of the best.

Readers' advice

There are many thousands of outstanding, gifted and committed teachers across the UK. Those who received a gold Plato at the Palladium recently were identified by their colleagues as among the leaders in their field. They know that they also represent their colleagues, schools and school communities – and the millions of children that are nurtured, encouraged and inspired every day.

If the awards remind you of your teachers, thank them for their dedication and hard work, and nominate them for one at

Sophie Byatt, Managing director, The Teaching Awards

Most teachers go into teaching for what they feel they can give, and don't expect extra recognition. I have more respect for those teachers who just quietly get on with making our children's lives better than for those who go seeking glory.

Neil Kelly, Cheshire

The Teaching Awards were set up 10 years ago to raise the self-esteem of a profession in the doldrums, and it has achieved its goal. The regional and national winners are simply examples of the fantastic people working in our education system.

Chris Harte, Tyne & Wear

Next Week's Quandary

Dear Hilary,

My grandson has just started the second year of a degree in robotic engineering. He is trying to decide whether to complete his degree next year, or take a year off and get work experience, before returning to university to try for a First. Your advice, please.

Send letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce to arrive by 5 November, to 'The Independent', Education, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; fax: 020-7005 2143; email: h.wilce@ (please include postal address). Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition