Wednesday, 29 January 2014


The BBC has produced a series called Tough Young Teachers. It is about young graduates working for the Teach First scheme in Britain. The programmes I have seen have been riveting, although I expect there are many, many people who have been rejected for the scheme who are watching open-mouthed and wondering what on earth the selection panel were thinking of when they chose some of the people they did choose, instead of them.

I'm not a fan of reality television and I can see that I am not being given the full picture on what each young teacher is doing. All the same, there is so much of interest revealed in these shows - above all the startling lack of any respect for the authority of teachers among many of the students the Teach First recruits are supposed to deal with. The children get away with ridiculous behaviour, and I found it particularly sad to see a boy who is clearly exceptionally bright wasting time by arguing the toss over whether or not he should be treated as the equal of his teacher. You can only laugh with frustration when he insists that it's ageism to suggest that, because someone's older than you, they might know a bit more than you do. Such a clever child, wasting his opportunities.

However, what I found really shocking was a sequence in which one of the young graduates goes to his graduation and meets up with some of his friends from university. They have all studied civil engineering and this young man has decided to become a maths teacher. One of his friends cross questions him about how he could make such a decision, given how hopeless a teacher's pay is, compared to that of an engineer. Later, interviewed on his own, the friend expresses the view that the young maths teacher will quit teaching before too long and 'go on to great things'. Surely becoming a really good teacher is going on to great things. Do status and income always have to go hand in hand:

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