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Age discrimination is rife, says union

Hundreds of schools risk legal action because they are breaking age discrimination laws introduced this week.

A survey of more than 1,000 teachers by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers has found that one in 10 says they are not able to continue working until they reach 65 because of school policies. More than half said their employers tended to recruit young people if they had a vacancy.

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, introduced on October 1, makes it unlawful to discriminate against an employee under the age of 65 on the grounds of age.

The regulations also prevent schools from implying a preference for candidates of a certain age in their job adverts and denying employees the same opportunities for training as others on grounds of age.

Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said: "Although most nurseries, schools and colleges appear to be treating staff equally, there are still cases of blatant age discrimination, with heads and governors tending to recruit young people when they have a vacancy."

Promotion was the area where teachers were most likely to complain of age discrimination, followed by recruitment. Independent schools were among the worst offenders.

An ATL member at a Berkshire primary school said: "I am increasingly concerned that experienced staff are being replaced by NQTs simply because they are cheap - I am constantly being told how much I cost the school after 31 years at the chalk face."

Although the law should make it easier for teachers who wish to work longer, many nonetheless remain keen to retire before the official retirement age. Asked if they planned to stay teaching until 65, 53 per cent said no.

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