October 23: Why teachers must be valued – Sir Alex’s number one lesson

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WHO has the most important job – politicians, footballers or teachers? Though many will argue, with good reason, that David Cameron’s duties are the most onerous, Sir Alex Ferguson – Britain’s winning-most football manager – makes the case for teachers in his insightful new book Leading.

He credits his inspirational Glasgow primary school teacher, Elizabeth Thomson, for instilling an insatiable work ethic into him which continues to this day. He is adamant when he writes that “the best teachers are the unsung heroes of any society” because of their uncanny ability “to coax the best out of young people”.

Why does this matter so much? Sir Alex, and Britain’s captains of industry for that matter, will be perturbed to learn that teachers are suffering from so much stress that nearly 60 per cent have considered quitting the profession in the past six months for a variety of reasons which include an arduous workload, public sector pay restrictions, insufficient support and the trauma of dealing with unruly pupils.

Given that these results are far worse than previous surveys, and come at a time when there is already a nationwide shortage of experienced teachers with the ability to inspire, it would be cavalier and complacent of the Government if it was to compound matters by ignoring these truly shocking findings.

It is clear that teachers still want to make a difference and give children the best possible start in life, a calling even more important in Yorkshire because of the county’s position at the bottom of national attainment tables, but they have lost the will to do so because of years of political interference from meddling Ministers. Just when will the Government learn that it needs to start working with teachers, rather than antagonising them, if they’re to bring the best out of students of all ages and abilities?

Poppy poignancy

Legion represents best of Britain

THE Royal British Legion’s timeless work is no different today compared to May 15, 1921, when formed by groups of ex-servicemen to raise vital funds for comrades injured in World War One for the 800,000-plus families whose husbands, fathers and sons never returned from the blood-filled trenches of the Somme or other battlefields now etched in history.

Yet, while it is six years since Harry Patch, the last surviving Tommy, passed away, ongoing commemorative events to mark the Great War’s centenary add poignancy to this year’s Poppy Appeal and Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s evocative exhibit featuring many of the ceramic poppies displayed at the Tower of London last year to mark every British life sacrificed in the 1914-18 war. They will never be forgotten as families remember forebears who enabled Britain to stand tall as a beacon of democracy.

However it is humbling at the extent to which this inspirational charity has embraced those who have been killed, or injured, in more recent conflicts – they include Leeds soldier Lyndon Chatting-Walters, 25, who took part in yesterday’s London launch. Medically discharged from the Army after suffering severe spinal injuries in Afghanistan, he has now trained with the assistance of the Legion-funded Battle Back Centre, to become an outdoor instructor helping other casualties of war. Like the Royal British Legion itself, this fortitude represents the best of Britain and can only come about if individuals give generously and wear their poppies with pride during this period of remembrance. We know we can count upon the people of Yorkshire to do just that.

Sinfield’s success

Top civic honour for ‘Sir Kev’

IT is a tribute to Kevin Sinfield’s professionalism that he should be bestowed with a top civic honour as the curtain closes on his glorious boy’s own career with Leeds Rhinos. After all, there can be no more deserving recipient of the Leeds Award which was set up in 2007 to reward outstanding individuals who change the proud West Yorkshire city for the better.

Of course, there will be fans disappointed that a hand injury has ruled this ultimate player out of tonight’s Headingley farewell when the Rhinos play the touring New Zealand side. But it does mean that this 35-year-old completed his rugby league career at the very top when leading his side to a gloriously unlikely treble.

No one will forget the iconic photograph of a blood-splattered Sinfield walking over to the Leeds fans at the Grand Final and acknowledging their support. He was a one-off whose moniker “Sir Kev” now deserves to be made official in the Queen’s New Year honours.