Government officials are lobbying teaching organisations intensively to abandon tomorrow's mass protest against plans by the administration to introduce benchmark tests for language teachers. If they succeed, they could be doing the profession a favour. There may be some sympathy for teachers, who describe benchmarking as 'insulting', but they do not have much active support. The general view seems to be that this is a time for everyone involved in education to act for the system's greater good. Six parents' groups have already come out against a plan to boycott the test. Rather than rally public opinion behind the teachers, there is a danger the protest simply will open divisions within the community, bringing an acrimonious edge to the debate. After some dithering, the Advisory Committee on Teachers' Education and Qualifications has agreed to exempt language teachers who have graduated in English and taken professional training courses in the subject. That leaves more than 12,000 to meet the minimum standards of proficiency by 2005. Those who know they do their jobs well have nothing to fear. Those who are less certain about their competence have ample time in which to improve, and can take training courses as a help. Can that seriously be a problem? Teaching is a vocation for which paper qualifications only tell part of the story. Someone without a degree may be better at imparting knowledge and sparking student enthusiasm than colleagues with strings of letters after their names. And while it might be irksome for good teachers to be benchmarked, it is only a minor distraction from an important cause. Language standards are slipping for a variety of reasons. In an avowedly trilingual city, English is used less and less in advertising, brochures or government forms. Children rarely meet it in daily life away from school, so teachers have to be up to the mark if they are going to make headway. They must be familiar with modern methods which can make learning more interesting and more fun. The committee must take some blame for staff dissatisfaction. If it had announced a positive plan at the start, there might have been less fuss. Only when matters got out of hand did it address how the programme should be implemented. Having set the standards, it must provide the back-up, and ensure there are training-course places for all who apply.