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Friday, 15 September, 2000, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Teachers: Fancy a job at MI5?

Fed up with teaching? Looking for a new challenge? Why not reply to an advert promising "something completely different" and join MI5?

This is no spoof - the security service really is looking for teachers to "carry out pre-employment assessments of applicants for all jobs" - which appears to mean interviewing potential recruits.

It might not have quite the same lure as becoming a spy, but successful applicants will get to take part in selecting members of the security service and there is always the chance of a transfer...

The days of recruitment over a glass of sherry with an Oxbridge don are very much in the past

Home Office spokesman

In an advertisement in The Times Educational Supplement (TES), MI5 is offering a starting salary of 26,700 and a non-contributory pension.

The service is looking for "reliable, discreet and impartial" candidates with a "high degree of mental agility" who have initiative and can "interview people from all walks of life".

The advert is in the spirit of an open recruitment policy and equal opportunities.

"The days of recruitment over a glass of sherry with an Oxbridge don are very much in the past," a Home Office spokesman told BBC News Online.

But don't use the term "spy" in the interview, because they don't like it. "We prefer 'employee' or 'operative'", said the spokesman.

So why advertise in The TES, especially at a time when recruitment in the teaching profession is in dire straits?

Roger Moore as Bond
MI6 (overseas) agent James Bond is the popular image of a spy
In short, they are "after the best" the Home Office spokesman said.

"The security service is in an extremely competitive market, like everyone else these days."

Deputy advertising director for The TES, Patrick Roberts said this sort of advert was not a "regular occurrence" in the publication.

"I suspect they've gone to the public sector to attract people from different backgrounds," he told BBC News Online.

The vast majority of the hundreds of adverts in The TES were teaching related, proving there was still a crisis in teacher recruitment, Mr Roberts added.

Covert past

In the past MI5 has been a highly secretive organisation.

But the reign of Stella Rimington from 1992 to 1996 - the first director general of the service to be publicly named - saw an era of reform.

MI5 began to hold news conferences and even published its telephone number.

But the allegations of former-MI5 employee David Shayler against the security services have again raised questions about their accountability.

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See also:

11 Mar 98 | UK
MI5 number's out
14 May 99 | UK
Who's being spied on?
22 Jun 99 | UK
Behind the MI5 myth
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