’Well, at least the penny’s dropped somewhere,’ I said to myself on
Peter Smith, general secretary of a teachers’ union - the Association of
Teachers and Lecturers - had just told his annual conference that their
profession was being harmed by the negative image portrayed by trade
Next day roughly a third of delegates to the National Union of Teachers’
conference walked out on education minister, Estelle Morris, who used to
be a teacher, as she spoke to them. Others who stayed booed and heckled
her. Once again Easter crucified public sympathy for teachers. Mr Smith
might just as well have talked to the trees.
We in PR have to ask ourselves why? And while we are at it we might also
ponder why the chief constable of Norfolk who, after one of his largely
untended flock of farmers had been convicted of the murder of a 16-
year-old burglar with a record as long as your arm, thought it necessary
to advise us to ’really shout and make a lot of noise’ if confronted by
a villain in our own homes.
Both reactions were ill-judged since teachers and the police are
perceived to be failing in their duty. The general feeling is that kids
are not being taught properly and that the police are not protecting us
Against that background you would have thought that a certain humility
would have been prescribed by their PR advisers. It probably was. So why
don’t they listen? Teachers, in the main, have been captured by
militants who think only in terms of class conflict. Policemen are
generally controlled by politically correct social workers who have
little appetite for confronting real villains if they can avoid it.
The result is a tragedy for the ordinary, earnest dedicated teacher and
copper. God knows they both have a hard time of it now that parental
responsibility has flown out of the window and role models almost
systematically coarsen society. They will have an even harder time of it
in the future as the consequences of the breakdown in traditional family
life are visited on us. What they need more than anything else is public
sympathy and understanding.
They will not get it if they snub ministers before the TV cameras,
thereby ostentatiously setting a bad example by boorishly denying free
speech, or offer gratuitously useless advice on coping with burglars
instead of making a life of crime not worth the candle.
Ironically, the teachers’ main gripe is the idea of paying them by
I can see problems in devising a fair system. But I suspect that if
teachers and policemen were paid by results -measured by higher
achieving children and falling crime figures - things would be a little
different. They would no longer, like British Tommies in World War I, be
lions led by donkeys, with the notable exception, of course, of Peter