Currently, at least two of my masters are over 70, but we have to remind ourselves that eventually even Mr Chips needed a successor. At present this is especially difficult in subjects such as CDT, food and nutrition and RE. They have not only become increasingly theoretical but also downgraded by a generation that believes in more "academic" subjects. Since the national curriculum and league tables were introduced, demand at GCSE has plummeted - with dire consequences for training quotas.
A dearth of replacement teachers for these subjects could be catastrophic. Imagine a world without engineering, building, and nutritional skills, especially at the everyday level in normal households; imagine too an England without spiritual values. Parents usually call the tune: even reminders that universities have to be physically built and students properly fed and spiritually nourished, sometimes meet a blank response.
In short, the general attitude taken towards CDT, food and nutrition and RE is now approaching something of a national scandal, and may be the cause of all our woes. Healthy family life depends on nurturing healthy minds, sound moral principles and a balanced diet.
If we further downgrade these in relation to academic subjects, we shall find it not only difficult to replace Mr Chips, but also further damage family life. On a more personal note, my day would not be the same without the occasional cycle race along the Wellingborough Road against older members of staff, and I certainly would not relish their replacement by younger veterans, for it would also ruin the children's treat.
Gerald J Smith is head of St Peter's Independent School, Northampton