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Age discrimination is rife in profession, says teacher

The over-50s are undervalued and are being shut out of teaching, according to one teacher and former school leader.

Writing in the 20 March issue of TES, Rae Gilbert (not her real name) explains how her efforts to find employment after moving to a different area of the country have been thwarted by age discrimination.

“I never heard back from many of the schools I applied to. Those who did reply were negative,” she writes. "Confused, I asked around, did some research and requested feedback from failed applications. That’s when the revelation occurred: although I was experienced, dynamic and up to date with current teaching practice, I was over 50 and apparently that meant getting a new job in education was impossible."

She reveals that her experience is not an uncommon one – numerous other teachers she spoke to had been through similar experiences. And the NASUWT teaching union acknowledges that age discrimination is now a huge issue for teachers.

“All the evidence shows that discrimination is rife in the workplace,” says general secretary Chris Keates. “NASUWT evidence shows that older women teachers are particularly vulnerable and the union has a wealth of information about them being denied access to professional development, being targeted inappropriately for capability procedures and being put under pressure to leave the profession.”

Gilbert outlines how this is not just illegal but is also denying young people the chance to work with teachers with so many fantastic skills.

“Age is relevant: not as a tool to persecute but as a reason to employ,” she writes. “We live in an ageing society, full of people from whom we can learn but still struggle to appreciate. We must not shut them out. We need to embrace age, celebrate it for what it brings to a school, a classroom, a child. If we do, the world of education, and ultimately society, will be richer for it.”

Read the full article in 20 March edition of TES on your tablet or phone, or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents

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