A MASSIVE wave of early retirement is exacerbating a severe shortage of teachers in Berlin, causing havoc in a city which has seen an influx of children from the former capital Bonn.
Many pupils returned to school in September facing huge gaps in the timetable as a result of the authorities giving unprecedented numbers of teachers early retirement without providing new staff.
The average age of a German teacher is now 49, compared to 36 in 1970, and the rate at which they are taking early retirement has doubled in the past decade.
In some districts of Berlin only 10 per cent of those retiring had reached statutory pension age.
Large numbers of teachers apply to retire on medical grounds, but the authorities also say that the exodus is related to a 10 per cent cut in pensions which will come into force in January 2001. This reduction had previously been scheduled for January 2000, causing panic this year.
Berlin, with 30,000 teaching posts, has lost 3,000 to retirement in the past three years with almost 500 going since July. The authorities expect to retire 80 teachers each month until next September.
The teachers' union defended their members' right to opt for early retirement on medical grounds, but admitted that the sudden exodus was causing chaos.