“GET INTO teaching in Bradford with a tax-free bursary of £26,000” the Department for Education’s television advert declared.

“I wouldn’t get into teaching in Bradford for twice that,” my visitor quipped.

After berating him for his cynicism, I asked him “Why?”

“Well, it’s not got a great reputation, has it?” he responded. “And it’s not the best place to live and work.”

That, in a nutshell, is what Bradford is up against when it comes to bringing in talent to help turn around the performance of the district’s schools.

My friend, of 20 years’ standing, lives in a very rural area. He’s not a teacher and his local schools have been rated consistently “Good” or “Outstanding” in Ofsted appraisals. Their catchment areas are predominantly what is traditionally referred to as “middle class.”

His perception of what Bradford is like is a common one. The district’s external image has been cited as one its biggest challenges in just about every survey carried out here for decades.

Earlier this week, the district’s lack of confidence in its own progress and achievements was being quoted by senior movers and shakers on a business conference panel as one of the biggest obstacles for it to overcome if it is ever to realise its true potential.

Also high up on that list were our levels of educational attainment, the solution to which, it was suggested by several people, is to attract better teachers with a total commitment to improving our children’s life chances, regardless of their environment.

Those two issues have now been tackled head on in a new initiative aimed at overcoming the perceived stigma of teaching in Bradford and persuading those wanting to join the profession to do so in a place where they can make the most difference.

Bradford For Teaching is being funded by Bradford Council and co-ordinated by the Northern Lights Teaching School Alliance.

It showcases the skills and achievements of real teachers currently working in Bradford and tells the stories of how they came to be doing the job and what their everyday lives are like.

Five of them are currently featured on a website – bradfordteaching.org – which inadvertently also sets a standard for just how well Bradford can sell itself to the outside world if it really tries.

Even for those without children and devoid of any interest in teaching as a career, it makes compelling reading and viewing and should lift the spirits of anyone with the interests of this district it heart.

One of those featured, Louise Morgan, who teaches English at Beckfoot Upper Heaton, sums it up like this: “If you want to be part of something and actually have an impact, Bradford is the place to do it.”

The website is packed with upbeat messages about the district and if the teachers’ stories aren’t enough to convince would-be candidates, it’s “Five reasons to teach in Bradford” are worth repeating, not least because of the way they rightly turn some of our challenges into positives:

? Demand for good quality teachers is high. We are the youngest city in England – almost a third of people living in Bradford are under 20 – so education is key to our future.

? You’ll get experience of working with different people and cultures in one of the most diverse cities in the UK. About half of our school students are from black, Asian or minority ethnic communities.

? You’ll find school leaders on a mission to deliver the best education possible to create life chances for young people. We have one of the first research schools in the country and strong multi-academy trusts, offering exciting career opportunities.

? You will change lives here. About a quarter of our children are classified as living in poverty. If you believe that opportunity should never be limited by a child’s family income, then we need your passion and your skills in Bradford.

? We’re a growing, ambitious city with an entrepreneurial spirit and a trend of educational improvement.

It’s a compelling case and one from which the wider district can learn as it strives to punch its weight in the future.

The Bradford For Teaching initiative has been launched at a time when the district’s results are starting to show a real turnaround after decades in the doldrums, when genuine year-on-year improvements were always overshadowed by faster improvements nationally.

The latest GCSE result tables identified the district as the fourth most improved education area in the country in terms of the amount of progress a pupil makes between finishing primary school and leaving secondary. Overall, Bradford was ranked 56th out of 151 LEAs, compared to 118th in 2016, on this measure.

Building on those improvements is vital to the future of Bradford.

As Kirsten England, Bradford Council’s chief executive, told business leaders at the YEN Expo at Bradford College on Monday: “My job is to grow the economy of Bradford… and the main interventions that will help us on that journey are sustainably raising the attainment levels of our children and young people through education and connecting the city and its workforce and goods and services to the markets.

“So, education and transport are our two critical priorities.”

Nick Garthwaite, president of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said they were “absolutely aligned” with the Council in terms of getting young people ready for work, which was music to the ears of the chief executive of Bradford College Group, Andy Welsh.

“It’s all about economic growth and having a highly-skilled and adaptable workforce,” he said. “We need to see everybody working together, in the right direction at the same pace. There are some brilliant opportunities here and I’m really optimistic about the future of Bradford.”

Ms England illustrated how far Bradford has come with a graphic example.

“It’s all about the quality of teaching and leadership in our schools and having the ambition for our children,” she said. “When I arrived in Bradford in the early ’nineties and went to a parents evening for my son the teacher said ‘Well, he hasn’t caused us much bother.’

“And, at the time, that summed up education here, which had a low level of ambition for our kids.

“So, the biggest thing we can do is have ambition for our children… and have fantastic teachers and leaders who want the best for those children.

“I think there is a strength and resolve in the leadership of the education system in Bradford… to do its best for the children of this district. We have more to do but we’re on the way.”