17 May 2020
By Mark Richards
There is now overwhelming evidence to back up the claim that there is now a major problem with ageism in the teaching profession.
Experienced teachers and older professionals are highly valued by pupils, parents and newly (and recently) qualified teachers. However, it is definitely the case that some headteachers and school leaderships are not convinced.
Of course, there will come a time when an individual begins to notice that most teachers are younger than them. Next, it becomes apparent that many entire leadership teams are younger than them as well. In itself, this shouldn’t be a problem.
However, many older teachers find that they are made to feel like they are a problem.
And it all comes down to money
An experienced teacher is an expensive teacher
Naturally, there are some headteachers who will simply trust older professionals to get on with the job. Similarly, there are some school leaders who respect experienced colleagues and see them as valuable and a safe, reliable pair of hands. Unfortunately, it seems that for every headteacher that sees things that way, another will take an entirely different view. They see experienced teachers as a drain on resources – an expendable problem and obstruction.
Indeed, teaching unions say that bullying of older teachers is now rife in schools as expensive professionals are systematically driven out so that they can be replaced by younger, much cheaper alternatives. There has also been a sharp increase in the number of older teachers seeking counselling.
Sadly, it’s simply a case of economics. An NQT can be between £10,000-£15,000 cheaper per annum than an experienced teacher at the top of the pay scale. It has become an all too familiar sight for older teachers to leave a school to be replaced by a conveyor belt of NQTs and Teach First recruits who invariably leave after a short time to be replaced by more of the same. This can save schools plenty of money, of course, but the true cost is difficult to quantify. Every school benefits from having a range of experience in the staff room. A lack of experienced teachers can cause real problems though. It can mean that there are too few staff to mentor inexperienced teachers. In the medium and long term, it can create a leadership vacuum in the school.
Ageism needs to be called out
Ageism needs to be called out in schools. The problem is that it is relatively easy for school leaders to cover it up and to present a whole host of perfectly plausible reasons why the actions of a school’s leadership do not constitute ageism.
It is an uncomfortable truth in teaching that if you look at any teacher on the hunt for flaws, then you will probably be able to find some. After all, nobody is perfect. What’s more, it is relatively easy for a member of staff to be ‘bullied’ or ‘pushed out’ if the SLT is that way inclined.
Experienced teachers should be valued, not victimised. The fact that ageism exists in schools is a real stain on the profession.
We encourage our readers to share their knowledge.
Do you have an idea, view, opinion or suggestion which would interest others in the education sector?
Are you a writer? Would you like to write and have your article published on The Educator?
If you are connected with the education sector or would like to express your views, opinion on something required policy makers’ attention, please feel free to send your contents to firstname.lastname@example.org