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Peter Smith, general secretary of the 150,000-strong Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), has welcomed a ma...
Peter Smith, general secretary of the 150,000-strong Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), has welcomed a major survey revealing that pupils think their teachers are doing a good job.

However, Mr Smith has expressed his deep concerns that the same survey also shows that youngsters do not want to enter the profession because they believe it is too stressful.

On the first day of ATL's annual conference in Belfast, Peter Smith called on the government to act quickly to relieve the pressures on teachers including the stresses of long hours, meeting targets and league tables, the demands of implementing a constant flow of changes to the national curriculum, Ofsted inspections and handling difficult pupils and parents.

If not, the government will face the consequences of losing excellent teachers and deterring potential recruits into the profession.

Peter Smith's concerns are supported by a recent ATL survey of 2,600 pupils in England and Wales which found that three in four young people (76%) do not want to become teachers.

The research carried out by MORI reveals that more than half the pupils aged between 11 and 16 (57%) are put off teaching because they believe it is too stressful. Two in five (42%) feel teachers are not respected and this is particularly off-putting to more than half the black and ethnic minority pupils surveyed (53%) who said they would not consider teaching as a career.

Overall, bad pay features only fifth on the list of reasons for not becoming a teacher with 28% saying this was the case. Recruiting more men into teaching will still be a problem for the government as the survey found that boys are less likely to consider teaching than girls.

Only one in ten boys (10%) said they would think about entering the profession whereas 22% of girls said they would. Black and ethnic minority pupils are more interested in becoming teachers than last year when a similar survey was conducted.

Just under a quarter (22%) said they would consider such a career compared to 17% in 1999. At the same time, pupils believe their teachers are generally doing a good job. Three in four (75%) think their teachers are aware of the need to keep discipline in the classroom, to be fair to all pupils (61%), to set work that helps pupils do well and gain confidence (61%), and for each pupil to be treated as an individual (57%).

Commenting on the survey findings, Peter Smith said:

'Teachers will be thoroughly appreciative of the fact that pupils in their care believe they are doing a good job. Accusations that teachers are telling youngsters not to enter the profession are absurd. They do not need to be told about the pressures that teachers are under. They can see it with their own eyes.

'This government must wake up to reality or else teachers will vote with their feet and leave the profession in droves.'

Notes: The ATL survey was conducted by Market and Opinion Research International (MORI) in January and February 2000. 115 middle and secondary schools in England and Wales participated and 2,610 pupils returned questionnaires.

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