Ask most people to name the teacher who had the biggest impact on their school days and they will be able do so in a heartbeat.
I would wager most of us look back with a degree of fondness, not to mention some regret that we didn’t listen hard enough, and, if we think about it, are incredibly grateful to at least one former teacher for helping us on our way. Those of us with the appropriate number of grey hairs will remember the 1997 television and cinema advert, No-one forgets a good teacher, which was commissioned on the tidal wave of optimism which followed Tony Blair’s iconic ‘Education, education, education’ pledge and his subsequent election as Prime Minister.
The advert, which featured Blair himself, alongside the likes of John Cleese, Seb Coe, Joanna Lumley and David Seaman, involved each famous face recounting the name of the teacher who had made the biggest impression on their lives and careers. Designed to recruit the people needed to fulfil Blair’s key manifesto pledge, the advert’s brilliance lay in the fact it was a teacher who most inspired us.
The evidence that the influence of a great teacher can be lifelong was there for all to see at Sunday’s BAFTAs when living legend Ridley Scott (pictured) accepted his fellowship from the organisation. During his speech, the director of classics such as Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator reflected on his struggles as a North East schoolboy in the 1940s. Even at the age of 80, and with the untold riches 40 years in Hollywood have brought him, he still took the time to remember the teachers who encouraged him all those years ago. He told millions of television viewers: “Teaching is the most important of professions. Sort that out and social problems will get sorted out”.
Most will agree with him and we cannot escape the fact the profession is gripped by a recruitment crisis – we have fewer than 13,000 secondary school teachers than 11 years ago. The Government is spending record amounts on education but it clearly isn’t enough. The teachers of today need more support if they are to continue having the profound effect on the leaders of tomorrow.