Good pay, nice holidays, top job

The classroom, it seems, is back in fashion. And it's not just down to clever adverts, says Caitlin Davies

It's been a long time coming, but the message is getting through: teaching can be a truly rewarding career. And the proof of this can be seen in the success of the Teacher Training Agency's recent advertising campaign. Each day, an average of 117 eligible people call the teaching information line - up 33 per cent from last year - to find out how they too can sign up to train.

It's been a long time coming, but the message is getting through: teaching can be a truly rewarding career. And the proof of this can be seen in the success of the Teacher Training Agency's recent advertising campaign. Each day, an average of 117 eligible people call the teaching information line - up 33 per cent from last year - to find out how they too can sign up to train.

But it hasn't always been this way. Three years ago, I was on the Tube staring at a teacher recruitment advertisement that said: "Those who can, teach." I had just left my job at an inner London comprehensive and, for me, the advert should have read: "Those who can stand it, teach."

The following year, the TTA came up with a new advert, a bizarre campaign featuring headless people with the slogan "Use your head. Teach". This campaign didn't take off, coinciding as it did with hundreds of teaching redundancies. One union leader compared the Government's approach to teacher recruitment to the dying throes of a headless chicken.

Two months ago, I was on the Tube again, opposite a very different advert. It featured a group of beaming secondary-school children and the question: "Do you ever have discussions with people who haven't made their minds up yet?" The TTA has got it right with its new focus on what is best about teaching: the children.

When your relationship with your pupils succeeds, when a class goes according to plan, teaching can feel like the best job in the world. Most of all, it can be fun. Suddenly, the advert made me feel nostalgic for the career I'd left behind.

"What is great about teaching is simply the kids," says Zoe Hudson, 24, a modern language teacher at Shaftesbury School and Sports College in Dorset. "When I get into that classroom, the atmosphere is one of fun. I love the way the children interact with me. We all get enthused."

And this enthusiasm for teaching is reflected in the rising number of applications to teacher training courses. This year, about 41,000 training places have been allocated by the Department for Education and Skills. Last year, the figure was nearer 35,000.

And the new trainees are more likely to be graduates, such as Hudson, who did her degree in French and Spanish. Now, about 10 per cent of the graduate workforce are moving into teacher training.

Of course, it's not just the adverts that are attracting people to the profession; there are other factors. One is the variety of routes into teaching, whether undergraduate, postgraduate or employment-based. All three routes train candidates towards qualified teacher status, which is required if you want to teach in a state school.

Most trainee teachers take the Postgraduate Certificate of Education (PGCE), which takes a year of full-time study but can also be done part-time or by distance learning. But the employment-based route is also proving popular. Those who join the Graduate Teacher Programme are trained - and paid - while working in a school. In 1997, just 89 people joined the scheme: now it's nearer to 6,000.

Training routes aside, there are the financial incentives. Those who take the postgraduate route get a £6,000-£7,000 tax-free training bursary. Newly qualified teachers in designated subjects (maths, science, modern languages, English and Welsh, design and technology and ICT) get a £4,000-£5,000 golden hello after induction.

Former teachers on returners' courses get £150-a-week bursaries. Those with related degrees who want to teach maths, physics and chemistry get £150 a week for pre-initial teacher training enhancement courses.

For those who have trained in priority subjects, like Hudson, the Government will pay off student loans. Her £16,000 debt will be paid off at 10 per cent a year, which is a big incentive for her not only to become a teacher, but to stay in the profession.

Teacher salaries are also higher than many people think they are. A newly qualified teacher will start on about £19,023 (£22,611 in inner London), while experienced teachers can earn up to £32,391 (£38,634 in inner London).

Not everything is rosy in the teaching profession. There are still high dropout rates, along with issues of workload and pupil behaviour. But Zoe Hudson wishes that she could encourage more of her friends to go into teaching. "Most of those who did languages at university have gone into mundane jobs where they don't use their language skills," she says. "I have good pay, nice holidays and great job satisfaction."

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