Age discrimination has become one of the biggest concerns among teachers, according to the NASUWT teaching union.
The union's members have voted to put a motion on campaigning to end age discrimination in schools at the top of the ballot list at this year’s annual conference in Belfast.
General secretary Chris Keates told Tes that older teachers were being “bullied out of schools” by being put under more scrutiny than younger colleagues, often because they’re more expensive.
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She said: “It could be by increasing lesson observations. It could be putting them on what are euphemistically called ‘support programmes’, which most teachers read as being the first stage of going into a capability procedure.
Age discrimination against teachers
“They will tell us that these are anything but support programmes, and that they’re not designed to help them but to put them under pressure so they’ll leave.”
It’s the first time ever that a motion on age discrimination has been top of the ballot list at an NASUWT conference.
Ms Keates said: “I remember one headteacher telling me she had actually stopped going to local meetings of headteachers because she was getting really concerned that the only discussion was people swapping anecdotes of what strategies they’d used to get rid of staff they didn’t want.
"She just said she found that so negative that she couldn’t see any point in those meetings. For somebody who has been teaching for 30 years, done well in their career and people have told them they are a good teacher, it’s actually quite a blow to their morale for somebody to come in and suddenly say, ‘Actually, I don’t think you’re such a good teacher.'
“It means that their whole life, almost, has been wasted because at least they want to go out knowing they have done 30 years, 40 years, of good service.”
The same motion also condemns the increase of teachers’ retirement age, and the fostering of a culture of “work until you drop”. It also highlights concerns that many teachers who are being forced into early retirement experience "serious financial hardship".
Ms Keates added: “Sometimes it’s absolutely overt discrimination. We had a case where a new headteacher came into a school in the north of England and actually said to one of the older teachers, ‘You’re 65. Don’t you think you should be doing something else?’ It’s very rare you get it right up front like that.”
The motion, to be debated in the second public session of the conference, on 20 April, also highlights concerns about the “large number of experienced teachers leaving the profession”.
It calls for action to continue to campaign for “effective and supportive employment practices in schools and colleges that value and support older teachers” and for “recognition from all government and administrations of the valuable contribution which experienced teachers make”.
The conference takes place over Easter.