Stars help teacher recruitment

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair and the pop star Skin, from Skunk and Anansie, are among the celebrities in a government-funded advertising campaign designed to change the image of teachers.

The advertisements feature 17 celebrities naming their favourite teachers under the slogan "no one forgets a good teacher".

The Prime Minister backed the campaign to improve recruitment to teaching and to raise the academic standard of recruits. Applicants for teacher training have dropped by 18 per cent in the last two years.

Teachers and teacher trainers said that better pay and conditions would be more effective in improving teachers' status than cinema advertisements.

The targets, laid down by the Teacher Training Agency, are:

8 to make teaching one of the top three choices for graduates. At present it is fifth;

8 to ensure that entrants to undergraduate teaching courses have qualifications which match those for other courses. The figures are 13.3 A-level points compared with 18.8;

8 95 per cent entering postgraduate teaching courses should have at least a second class degree. The figure is 88 per cent;

8 to attract twice as many candidates as places for secondary teaching courses. History is the only subject which attracts at this rate.

8 to attract three times as many candidates as places for primary courses. There are 2.3 applicants per place.

One cinema commercial includes John Cleese, Ben Elton, Stephen Hawking, Bob Hoskins, Jeremy Paxman, Anita Roddick and Eddie Izzard alongside the Prime Minister. Each gives the name of a favourite teacher. Skin said at the campaign launch that "Miss Webb" who taught her English at St Martin in the Fields school in Brixton, London was "quite a crazy character". But she had taught her how to convey a message briefly. "That's what a classic pop song is all about."

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, welcomed the campaign but added: "Starting salaries for teachers are now some pounds 1,800 less than those available to graduates elsewhere. After five years, a teacher's salary will have risen by a third but the salary of a graduate who chooses another profession will have risen by more than 50 per cent."

Judith Judd

Leading article, page 20