The Welding Factor

By Glen Jenkins, CIPD Reward Examiner

Watching the 2014 BAFTA awards, my focus centred not on the awards for the best film, best leading actor etc. but on the acceptance speech by Dame Helen Mirren on gaining the Academy’s highest accolade. It was a just reward for such a consummate performer. In accepting her Fellowship, she chose to tell the audience about the beginnings of her journey to the highest heights of the acting world by citing as her inspiration English teacher Alice Welding, a great teacher who revealed ‘the power of literature’ and in doing so led Helen to where she is now. Continuing her theme, she asked the audience to raise their hands if they too had been inspired by their teachers. A quick scan by the camera showed many raised hands and then, at Helen’s invite, rapturous applause from this celebrated audience for the teaching profession.

I wondered if this was repeated across the land would there be a similar response? I ask this question to highlight a central tenet in all rewards i.e. the value we place on work. Some people’s work is rightly valued more than others and reflects factors such as status, prestige and gender as much as effort and ability. Clearly Alice Welding and many like her have respect but do they still have the status?

We all recognise that teaching the young is a key occupation for regenerating our society and providing the spark to each new generation to innovate, renew, and indeed revolutionise as Helen Mirren did with television, stage and film. In Finland, for example, teaching is a key occupation that is respected and appreciated; teachers are very highly qualified and teaching is seen as a prestigious career alongside doctors, lawyers, scientists and, of course, actors. But our country no longer looks on the teaching profession in the same way and this is reflected in two-fifths of new teachers leaving the profession within five years.

The planned reforms of extrinsic rewards including performance related pay and progression changes are unlikely to retain new teachers, raise their status or motivate them to become more passionate about their work. To do that, intrinsic rewards will be needed; intrinsic motivation can also lead to inspirational teachers.
What damage this decline in teacher status will mean to our society and the next generation as yet to play out but if we are concerned with teacher status in our society, we all need to remember our quiet heroes like Alice Welding.

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  • I definitely agree with your opinion, the profession needs to regain value, for it to be able to inspire our youth.

    Our life is like a Garden, we can grow many skills and talents ...

    the questions is:

    What seeds will you Plant?

    what seeds are we planting if the profession of teaching is discourage.

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I don't think Mrs Welding was interested in her own status - she was much more focused on her subject and her pupils.

    Mirren described elsewhere the 'gold dust' she showered amongst women over many generations.....

    So I agree totally with links to intrinsic motivation but not convinced about the link made to status!

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous

    I don't think Mrs Welding was interested in her own status - she was much more focused on her subject and her pupils.

    Mirren described elsewhere the 'gold dust' she showered amongst women over many generations.....

    So I agree totally with links to intrinsic motivation but not convinced about the link made to status!


  • Whilst agreeing that intrinsic motivation is likely to be even more important to teachers than to some other workers I don't think that we can ignore the messages sent to potential teachers by the value that society places on the profession.

    Whilst researching somehting else a few days ago I came across a graphic from the FT based on ONS data.  It shows the changes in relative earnings of various broad groups of professionals [Doctors, Architects, Engineers] and workers [London Finance] for the last 40 years.  I had guessed the direction of travel but even I was surprised at the extent of some of the changes.

    flipchartfairytales.files.wordpress.com/.../4e756b56-95b4-11e3-9fd6-00144feab7de-img.jpeg

    Look at the changes and ask yourself if you remember the "national debates" which decided that certain groups should become more rewarded and receive more of the nation's wealth.  Does it accord with your view of the relative worth of these groups?

    In this case I would argue that the financial rewards are a proxy of the degree of worth ascribed "in our name" to these groups.  When coupled with the near constant micro management and interference with teachers [and the almost total disappearance of references to the "Teaching Profession" from politicians such as Gove] I don't wonder that there is such a high wastage rate amongst new teachers.