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Editor's comment

It's hard to square the teacher employment circle in times of recession. None of the sums quite seem to work out exactly as we would like them to. There is, of course, a neat symmetry to the notion of a "teacher-refresh" scheme (page 1).

Those nearing the age of retirement could receive a pension enhancement, thus allowing them to make space for newly-trained teachers, desperate for employment. An expensive quid from a cheaper quo. In practice, however, there are no guarantees that council finances, as they currently stand, will allow this to happen - hence the increasingly vociferous calls for the Government to give councils assistance to fund such schemes. For its part, the Government is also pleading poverty. It faces demands for financial support from companies on the verge of going under - so can it afford, politically and financially, to be paying teachers to retire early?

Glasgow City Council has taken the plunge this week and offered early retirement to those aged 55 and over. But there are caveats attached: applications must produce a financial saving to the council, and many teachers in their mid-50s may not be able to afford to take early retirement if they still have families to support.

The situation, therefore, calls for creative thinking. One option, highlighted this week on page 5, sheds light on the hitherto unpublicised clause in the teachers' handbook of conditions of service - that teachers are entitled to take a career break of up to two years and return to their old job, or up to five years and return to a job within their authority. Those volunteering abroad would suffer no loss to their pension - an added bonus - while those simply taking a career break are given the comfort of future job security and employment is opened up to new teachers. What's not to like?

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