Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 14 August, 2001, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Is teaching a low-status job?
Many of the people the teaching profession most needs to recruit find teaching badly paid and unappealing, according to a survey.

The Mori Social Research Institute found that graduates have a lower impression of the status of teaching than non-graduates.

And yet, graduates also think of teaching as a rewarding and enjoyable career.

Unions have seen these findings as proof that pay and conditions are the main barriers to attracting new recruits.

What do you think of teaching? Do you see it as a low status job?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Richard from Canada's ignorance is obvious. Teachers (or at least the ones I know) are not demanding to be treated as special. They are protesting against the inherent stupidity of the authorities dictating their careers. In the UK the government has them jumping through hoops to fill in masses of paperwork to make sure that the bureaucracy is run to governmental satisfaction. Regrettably, the days when teachers can just loll around educating children have passed us by - now they have to keep pointless records up to date and set meaningless tests for seven-year-olds. I'm not denigrating dustmen or milkmen, but to the best of my knowledge, neither of these professions forces employees to spend about four hours of their allegedly free time writing reports which nobody is ever going to read.
Pete, UK

Until you have tried it you have no idea

P Hall, England
I left BT under voluntary redundancy to try my hand at teaching. Biggest mistake of my life. It was partly due to the fact that I was not cut out for it, but a much bigger worry was the horrendous conditions under which teachers have to work. All I can say to those critics out there, and there are plenty of them, is until you have tried it you have no idea!
Philip S Hall, England

As a recent graduate considering a career in teaching, I can't help but agree. It would be an interesting and varied job, but do I want to consign myself to low wages, possible assault on the job and being at the whim of indecisive and bureaucratic politicians?
James Webb, UK

When I graduated, you applied to enter teaching as a reserve to getting a better job. Why should the second place candidate get paid to same as the rest of us?

Teaching is a brilliant job although not what it was. It remains brilliant because you work with the most amazing raw materials: children. They make the job worthwhile, just. The disadvantages are: constant change, huge mounds of paper, government interference, only seven days in a week so all of the domestic chores and "family life" have to be crammed into one day. Sundays are for marking and assessments, the weekly planning of each and every lesson on reams of A4, preparing teaching materials and additional subject coordinator roles (more paper & policies). I am lucky to have a dining-room table on which to put my PC (didn't get the government grant to buy it though it is certainly necessary in this job).

Hardly that bad. Teachers do get long holidays! I'm in school this week to reorganise my classroom now that the painters have left then I can settle to prepare the next terms medium term plans and write a new scheme of work. I'm not worried about the forthcoming Ofsted inspection, I only rarely wake in the middle of the night thinking about it now that I am on holiday. None of the parents have threatened or sworn at me in the last few months so I am really looking forward to going back in September. Go on, give teaching a try. It's a challenge.

Yes, teachers do a valuable job, but then so do most people. There is this rather strange idea in the UK that the status of a job makes it worth more, but you try getting by without the services of your classroom assistants, dustmen, shopkeepers, cafe workers and the like. The fact is that ALL jobs are interlinked, and are important. Frankly, all the snobbery surrounding so-called "professional" jobs in the UK has been one of the reasons why my wife and I are emigrating shortly. This country is rapidly pricing itself out of existence, and the fall cannot be far away. Greed is the death of any civilised society.
Keith Simpson, UK

Back in 1975, my dad was once lectured by a teacher at a PTA on the intense pressure of managing a classroom of 5th formers. My dad was bemused - he managed a car factory and 2000 militant union men led by "enforcers" who carried crow-bars! Perhaps teachers should require 5 years in industry/business to qualify. It might also strengthen their case for better service and pay conditions.
Andy, UK

Teaching should not be a low status job. The mess teaching is in reflects the real depths to which our children had been sacrificed by the policies of successive Tory Education Ministers and that apology for a political party supposed to be for the whole country. Ken Clarke was one of those failures I think.

I am a recent university graduate who would love to go into teaching, but the pay and conditions are awful! I'm working in the City earning twice what new teachers are earning in a job which has no stress at all. Until pay and conditions are sorted out very few people are going to be attracted into teaching (myself included)!
Jon, UK

I'm not sure that most of the people who go into teaching really have that many other career opportunities. Nowadays teaching is basically the job that lower 2nd or 3rd class graduates go for because it pays well, they don't know what else to do and they have few other alternatives. From personal knowledge of people who have gone into teaching from university, they weren't exactly fighting off job offers.
BS McIntosh, Sweden (ex-UK)

If indeed students in some parts of England are disruptive and sometimes violent, you should know that it is not the case in most parts of the English speaking world. And you better do something about it. A good start would be to change your attitude towards teachers.
Donald Lilly, Canada

Teaching is not a low status job, and should never be regarded as such. We need to respect all of our teachers, and not undermine the job that they do. There may be a very small minority of bad teachers, but the vast majority are good competent teachers. Time now for the Government to restore morale in the teaching profession, and once again build up teacher numbers in our schools.
Steve Fuller, England

Having been an airtraffic controller for many years I subsequently became an instructor. In doing so, I discovered what a rewarding vocation teaching can, and should, be. I now have an honours degree from the OU, gained with the express intent of using it to teach. But now, with the low pay and status of teaching so readily apparent, I find my resolve faltering. If the Government wants to get people into teaching then both remuneration and, more importantly, the status of the teaching profession need to be significantly raised if people like me are to make the jump.
Simon Jones, Scotland

Teaching is low status for those teachers who think it so, but for others, it is a noble profession. And we have all known teachers who felt and acted both ways. I have vivid and fond memories of two or three teachers who fanned the flame of my curiosity and love of learning. They have the highest esteem in my eyes because they had high esteem for their job, for themselves and for their pupils.
Michael Watson, Canada

Teaching should be the best job in the world... and 15 years ago it was! When I chose it as a career option the pay, conditions and respect (anyone see a correlation?) were high indeed. There were 6 applications for every place at teachers' college... Asking what happened is, sadly, a rhetorical question. These days I love teaching but, sadly, it's just not sustainable as a career.
Vaughan Connolly, UK/NZ

Teachers nowadays are more vocal in their criticism of the pay and conditions they work by. But, what they say is enough to turn any well-educated person away

Paul, N. Ireland
I'm just about to graduate with a master's degree in physics. Science teachers are in high demand these days. However, after two full minutes of consideration earlier this year I decided not to become a teacher. My feelings are typical of people I know in my position.
Teaching doesn't seem like a fruitful career to people like me. Teachers nowadays are more vocal in their criticism of the pay and conditions they work by. But, what they say is enough to turn any well-educated person away. While I think teaching would be personally rewarding, I'm not prepared to put myself in the position these teachers are warning me of. I can earn two/three times as much as they do and still be respected for my contribution doing something different.
Paul, N. Ireland

Teaching was my goal in childhood. Nowadays, my goal has not changed as teachers have to explore new ways to encourage studying.
In Hong Kong, teachers have to learn advanced technology to facilitate an interesting learning atmosphere in the classroom.
Lau, yip-tak, Hong Kong, China

What makes teachers think they are so special? They are no more important then the guy who picks up your garbage or the milkman who delivers your daily supply of the white stuff. Why do they want to stand out? Because it's a public job? A tube driver has a public job, do we hear them moan?
Richard, Canada

Teaching is a noble profession. In the teachers' hands lies the future of our children and the nation's destiny. That parents have allowed them to mould their children into responsible adults/citizens is testimony of the respect that they have accorded to teachers. They fully deserve to lift their heads high.
Freddie Tan, Singapore

There is still no doubt that teachers are chronically under-paid

Alex White, UK
It largely depends on the level of teaching. I feel that secondary school teachers have a harder job than primary teachers. Degrees aimed at primary teaching are notoriously easier than an academic honours degree. Despite this, there is still no doubt that teachers are chronically under-paid.
Alex White, UK

We cannot deny the fundamental role played by teachers in moulding the intellectual and moral growth of our children. It is a crying shame that we are in a position to ask whether teaching is a "low-status" job. It's even worse to know that teachers around the world are generally poorly remunerated of their extremely important work. Congratulations to all the hardworking teachers out there. Demand what it is you feel you rightfully deserve and we shall stand by you.
Eddie Mandhry, Kenya

Why should I put up with the stress of managing kids?

Joyce, England
I have an honours degree in maths and live in the home counties. If I had a degree in history and lived in Durham, then teaching might give me a comparatively good salary. As it is why should I put up with the stress of managing kids, marking homework, justifying myself to parents and the Government, and taking my holidays in August? As a computer programmer I can sit in a comfortable office, take time off whenever I need to, and earn myself at least 35,000 a year. I probably don't have the same STATUS as I would if I was a teacher, but I certainly have a better SALARY.
Joyce, England

Teaching obviously is low status. Low pay isn't the only marker. The utter disrespect parents and students have for teachers is another marker. Most of these same people would never consider treating their doctors or solicitors the same way.
Arri London, UK/US

I think at primary and secondary school level it is. The pay is poor, the conditions lousy and above all some areas get the thankless task of having to teach a lot of kids who'd rather do other things. Who out of choice would take that on board? Let's face it teachers should get better pay since they are the ones (in theory) who have a huge effect on the development of our kids. Parents are only one part of the equation. I'd love to be a teacher but I could not afford it and if it paid better I would be very selective about where to teach!
Keith, Switzerland

The unions are right. Pay and conditions are a barrier to people wanting to become teachers. I would happily become a teacher if the starting salary was higher and there wasn't endless bureaucracy and problems with unruly kids. The thought of 13 weeks paid holiday is extremely appealing and would suit my love of travelling!!
James, UK

Since our society links pay with status, I think it is inevitable that teaching is seen as low status.
Wendy, UK

It certainly isn't a high status one

STC, England
It certainly isn't a high status one. High status occupations are almost by definition those classed as "professional", such as lawyers, accountants, surveyors, senior bankers and doctors. What sets teachers apart from all of these is that teachers strike at the drop of a hat whereas these other groups do not. If teachers want to be treated as high status professionals they should learn to adopt the same professional standards.
STC, England

When I tell people that I'm planning to leave my relatively well-paid job as an IT consultant and train to be a maths teacher, they look at me as if I'm insane. The two things they invariably say is 'but the pay is so bad!' (can't argue with that!) and 'teachers don't get any respect' (can't argue with that either). But without people like me who are prepared to make the commitment to do the job and help raise the profile of the teaching profession, the undervalued teachers in this country would be stuck with this sort of profile forever.
Debbie Wilmot, London, UK

Society demands more and more of the teaching job, but not of other professions with the same intensity. Education is becoming too much learner and parent centred. The crisis is international, I am afraid.
Daniel Madrid, Spain

Teachers work extremely long days under impossible conditions and the threat of violence every day from both pupils and parents. Everyone seems to forget that these people have turned their back on higher paid easier jobs to educate. I think that anyone who makes the usual "they get so many holidays" comments should try full time teaching for a while and then we shall see how long they last in job like that
Vish, UK

As a graduate teacher myself, I see teaching as one of the most important jobs on this earth but, unfortunately, at the same time the most lowly paid job. As such it is unappealing. I do not see myself staying in it the next few years!
Chibamba Douty, Zambian student in Brunei Darussalam

Respect to the teachers, it's a tough job

Michael Thomas, London, UK
I think teaching is definitely a vocation. It's one of the most important jobs in the world. Teachers feed the little minds that become the workers to keep us in our retirement! To me, it is not a low status job but with so much political interference and almost militant unions it doesn't look an attractive proposition either. Respect to the teachers, it's a tough job.
Michael Thomas, London, UK

Absolutely. The disrespect and violence that teachers have to cope with these days would never entice me into the profession. I admire those that do brave it, but when you can work safely, and get higher salaries elsewhere, I know what my choice is!
Diane, UK

Low pay, long hours, physical abuse at the hands of students, and the possibility of prison if one of the little darlings makes up lies about you. Only an idiot would want to go into teaching.
Andy, UK

Unfortunately the status of teachers has plummeted in the last 20 years. Part of the blame rests with their unions who seem to reject every single government reform without exception. However, the blame lies mostly with successive governments. Why is it that we treat teachers like fools? They are told exactly what to teach, overburdened with bureaucracy, pilloried by any politician out to make a name for himself and paid a blue-collar salary. You would never guess that all qualified teachers are degree educated and professionally trained.
Richard, UK

I know I'd never want to go into teaching

Tom, UK
Having lived with two trainee teachers at university, I saw at first-hand how hard they had to work when on placement in schools. Having seen that, and heard them talking about the attitudes of children and parents, I know I'd never want to go into teaching. That's not because I think it's a low status profession - I have every respect for anyone brave enough to go into it - but because it seems to be a thankless task. Parents only seemed to take an interest in their child's education when they felt they should complain. That hardly helps morale. Also, the pay in no way reflects the physical workload, never mind the emotional strain of dealing with a classroom full of children.
Tom, UK

You think teaching is bad, you want to try being a librarian...
JoAnn Carter, Wales

My Mother was a teacher in Glasgow and in Brighton. The problems are not a low status but a job that is difficult to do because of pupil disruptive behaviour (often violent). The only way that teachers can be encouraged to come in is if there is a system to deal with bad pupils. I am a graduate (doing a post grad) and I feel I would be mad to enter the profession with all the stress that is involved.
Robert Parker, UK

See also:

09 Aug 01 | Education
Teaching fails to impress graduates
08 Jun 01 | Education
Shortage warning from teachers
23 Mar 01 | Education
Heads demand end to teacher crisis
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Talking Point stories