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Tuesday, 5 September, 2000, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Who would be a teacher?

On the first day of school for many, a survey suggests secondary schools in England and Wales could be 4,000 teachers short. But who wants the job?

Once upon a time, a career as a teacher was considered to be a rewarding choice.

Although never a lucrative option, life at the chalkface offered both challenges and prestige.

Today, as many schools reopen, head teachers are struggling to fill vacancies.

I got fed up [in the City] - I wanted to do something worthwhile

Lucie Harris, chemistry teacher
The government offers cash rewards for trainees and teachers specialising in hard-to-staff subjects, such as maths and modern languages.

In London, where the staffing crisis is particularly acute, some education authorities have tried head-hunting in Australia and New Zealand - countries that have both attempted to lure British teachers to plug their own staff shortfalls.

Kensington and Chelsea offer overseas recruits free flights to the UK; while in Croydon, south London, the borough did a deal with a housing association to provide cheap homes for staff.

In these days of record employment, with over-crowded classrooms and long hours to look forward to, who actually wants to be a teacher?

Classroom contact

Lucie Harris, 27, left her job at an international investment bank in the City of London to retrain as a teacher.

It's very difficult trying to explain to someone who has never tried it what is so good about teaching

Flora Wilson
"I got fed up - I wanted to do something worthwhile, something that actually used my [chemistry and management] degree."

She is now in her second year of teaching science and chemistry at Gosford Hill School in Oxfordshire, and has no regrets.

"It's a constant challenge. Every day is different. You are quite independent as a teacher, and working with the children is great fun as well."

Friends and acquaintances are surprised as to why she dropped the City in favour of the classroom.

"Everyone's always inquisitive, they always want to know why. They remember the horror stories from their own school days and want to know if it's still like that."


Flora Wilson, 24, has completed the Institute of Education's 1999/2000 post-graduate teacher training course.

A survey suggests high schools could be 4,000 teachers short
An Oxbridge history graduate, she caught the teaching bug after work experience at a private school.

"It's very difficult trying to explain to someone who has never tried it what is so good about teaching. It can be such an exhausting, demoralising job, but so rewarding in its own way.

"There's such a lot of job satisfaction in getting through to the kids, when they're responding well."

Elected president of the student union in February, she plans to combine part-time teaching with political activism this school year.

Miss Wilson plans to start full-time teaching in an inner-city school in September 2001, with a starting salary of about 16,000 topped up with a 2,316 London weighting allowance.

"A friend of mine, with the same undergraduate degree, joined the civil service and is now on 33,000.

"Others got jobs as management consultants. They started on 24,000 and are now earning much more because the rate of progression in the private sector is so quick."

Although she loves teaching, Miss Wilson doubts she will still be in the job in 10 years time.

"I doubt I'll make it past five years. I think the personal cost is too great, in terms of the working conditions, the remuneration and the lack of public respect."

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See also:

05 Sep 00 | Education
Staff shortages mar new term
05 Sep 00 | Education
Teacher shortage hits maths standards
13 Jul 00 | Education
Australian teachers ease crisis
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