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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Top author says teachers are too young
Philip Pullman
Teachers should try other careers first, says Philip Pullman
Prize-winning author Philip Pullman says people should not become teachers before the age of 35.

The Whitbread prize-winner says people should get some "human experience," such as trying different careers or having a family, before they step in front of the classroom.

In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement (TES), he said the teaching profession needed "big people" so that the government could not push them around.

He talked about one of his teachers who had been a tank commander at El Alamein during the Second World War.

Philip Pullman was a teacher in middle schools in Oxford for 12 years before he moved to Oxford University as an education lecturer.

He told the TES: "It's just a question of growing up. If they spent their 20s and early 30s gaining experience of life, they would gain a solid base to operate from.

"It's like this gap year business which does such good things for university students.

"They should have a gap of 15 years before they teach. Any human experience is useful for a teacher - travel, or learning a profession."

The writer, who won the Whitbread prize last year for The Amber Spyglass, said schools were held back by fear of exams, league tables and Ofsted inspections.

He said teachers should be set free - and be trusted to do their jobs.

It was the lack of intellectual freedom rather than poor pay which put people off joining the profession.

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