A RETIRING teacher has advised new recruits to dodge the ‘slings and arrows’ fired from Westminster and just enjoy the job.

As schools in Oxfordshire struggle to staff their classrooms, Andrew Walker has urged would-be teachers not to be put off by the challenge of ever-changing policy.

Last month the musician stepped down as head of performing arts at St Birinus School in Didcot after 30 years at the school.

With a parting shot at the government, he said recruitment and retention was a key issue facing schools across the county.

He said: “The big problem is salaries and house prices in this area – this year we have managed to recruit well as a school, but there have been difficult times as people find it difficult to live here.

“My advice to new teachers is to just make sure you enjoy it and ignore as much of the paperwork and politics as possible – in a few years’ time, somebody will come along and change what you have to do anyway.

“You need to enjoy dealing with young people and your subject, and if you can do that, you can take all the slings and arrows the government like to shoot at you, and [politicians] making a name for themselves by introducing ludicrous policies.”

The Didcot resident said the boys’ secondary school – which is now rated ‘good’ by Ofsted – had transformed since he joined in 1988.

He said St Birinus was in a tough place then, but had since ‘achieved an awful lot’.

The teacher, who is also known locally for roles in Didcot Festival Chorus, Oxford Symphony Orchestra, Didcot Arts Forum and Oxfordshire County Music Service, championed his subject.

Though concerns have been raised nationally about creative subjects being eclipsed by science and technology, Mr Walker said performing arts were greatly valued at St Birinus and its partnered educator, Didcot Girls’ School.

He said: “Certainly us and Didcot Girls’ School have no hint of music or drama or dance being cut, as both heads have been very keen to keep the subjects and give us a different perspective to other schools in the area.

“There is a perception [in other schools] that these subjects aren’t valuable amongst parents, which is a shame.

“It’s of tremendous benefit to schools in terms of events you can stage, which are very popular with parents.”

The father-of-three said he would retire with happy memories and said he would recommend the teaching profession to anyone in doubt.

He added: “It’s the enjoyment of music with young people that’s kept me going.

“They are full of energy: you see that sense of surprise and wonderment in their faces when they do something they didn’t think they could.

"It’s that, more than anything.”